Play Kalei (Review) iPhone/iPod/iPad

Play Kalei (Review) iPhone/iPod/iPad

Something different and still fun is a too-rare occurrence in the App Store, so when a game like Play Kalei lets you toy with the world through a kaleidoscope there’s much rejoicing. A short cheer, but nonetheless spirited.

I had an odd liking for kaleidoscopes as a kid, to the point of indulging in one of those overpriced yuppie desktop toys early in my professional career (alas, it’s generally not wise to look at the Evil Boss through it). Play Kalei revived and briefly fulfilled the memories, but its limitations and flaws ultimately sent me hunting for a non-game app to use as a live virtual scope. That wouldn’t have happened without encountering this, however, so that’s something.

This 99-cent puzzler by Chillingo, the king of the genre thanks to Angry Birds, is a far simpler challenge where the player finger-drags a virtual kaleidoscope around a picture until it matches the pattern as seen through the scope of a charming little animated dweeb who resembles mumbling Milton Waddams from “Office Space” and acts as your tutor.

The wide-screen-ratio photo occupies the bottom two-thirds of the screen, allowing for a decent amount of exploring. The two scopes are small side-by-side circles in the top left corner. An hourglass timer counts down in the top-right corner, where Milton with his white shirt, off-center necktie and pocket protector also resides.

Take too long and the edges of the screen start going dark as a slowly-shrinking circle spotlights in on the correct spot. This should immediately clue the player to sufficiently to solve the puzzle before time elapses, but sometimes it’s surprisingly tricky to touch the exact pixel that displays the correct pattern. There’s the usual variety of achievements, including some “clodhopper” ones like solving a puzzle when the circle has shrink to a tiny dot.

Play Kalei comes with 16 five-photo “chapters” and the player searches each photo three times to complete the chapter. Unfortunately, all but one are locked so you’re forced to play the chapters in the order dictated by Chillingo (an inspiration from Evil Corporate Owner EA, perhaps). The good – and, frankly, expected – news is you can import your own pictures, one chapter at a time, from your photo library or using your camera. Tackling the challenge with images of your much-loved demonspawn, vehicle or picturesque back yard is an entertaining ego indulgence both on your own and shared (what better way to make sure people get a really good look at the new baby?).

A two-player option has both competing to find the correct spot first on the same iDevice, which seems preferable to linking via Bluetooth if you don’t mind sharing the small screen. The piano-centric music loop is mellow and a bit quirky, matching the feel of the game, but not likely to induce heart-pounding pressure to solve the puzzle quickly.

So with all the kind words, why the qualifiers? To be short … well, actually that says it all right there: it’s so simplistic the novelty wears off after completing a few chapters and there isn’t much incentive to return beyond sharing/forced to look at recent camping trip photos.

There’s also one major and perhaps not unexpected flaw. The target is a location, not a pattern (which might be too complex to analyze in real-time), so photos with areas of similarity can show the problem as solved but the program thinks it isn’t. The ultimate challenge, to put it nicely, is a completely black screen. The kaleidoscope generates no pattern, the target is essentially impossible to find and that narrowing black hint circle is useless. Granted, if you decide to take on this Quixotic endeavor you deserve to struggle in vain, but plenty of ordinary pictures are dominated by a single color or pattern where large areas of “perfect matches” won’t be.

Some might question why Play Kalei is worth 99 cents when Angry Birds and many other superior puzzlers are the same price. I’d be happy if there was a live kaleidoscope option using the iPhone’s camera. But c’mon, if you kill a few commutes with this and pass it around to a few friends/loved ones it’s still got to be a better investment than a quart of gas or 20 seconds of phone sex.

Mark Sabbatini
Play Kalei by Chillingo Ltd.
Category:
Puzzle
Language: English
Rated: 4+
Requires: iOS 3.1.3 or higher
Size: 67.3MB

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Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
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