Thursday, November 28, 2013 20:30:06

Review: Ins and Outs is A Gorgeous, Soothing Brain Teaser

Some of the most addictive games are the simplest to explain. In Tetris, all you have to do is "fill in the gaps." Sounds very basic, and only when you start playing do you get it. Ins and Outs is not much different: All you have to do is "just" draw a loop so that some blocks are in, and others are out. And it's pure magic.

Like many of the best games, I found it on SGDjames wonderful channel, 5 Star Games. Here's what SGDjames has to say about it:

Ins and Outs is a fantastic puzzler with a great minimalistic design and a truly unique gameplay style. It is also jam packed with 900 free levels! Tonnes of fun. This is a MUST download.

Concept and Gameplay

Working through a dense level.

It sounds so simple in theory: You get a grid of tiles. Some are marked "in," others are marked "out." Your job is to create a loop that encloses all of the tile that say "in" while leaving out all of those that say "out." On a 4x4 grid, it really is quite simple. But if you go for an 8x8 grid, things certainly start getting tricky.

There are hints that can help you out, but you start out with just five, and extra hints cost money (developers need to eat, too!). Gameplay experience is very intuitive, and I feel it's one of those universal games that both kids and grown-ups can spend hours playing. The game doesn't punish you for making mistakes, nor does it have a ticking clock or any other stressful mechanics. You get to just sit and think.

Sound and Feel

Pick a scheme, any scheme.

There are some interesting similarities between Ins and Outs and smash hit Dots, which I loved. Just like Dots, Ins and Outs uses a very kinetic style for its menu. It doesn't look like native Android, but it's gorgeous. Menu items swoosh onto the screen with a fast, lively animation, and the whole thing just feels wonderfully fluid.

While you play, no background music is playing. Odd as it may seem, I actually loved the peace and quiet, and found that it really helped me calm down and get into the game. Even when you make a mistake (say, enclose a tile that should be "out"), the tile simply pulses patiently and waits for you to notice it. So, no background music, and very few in-game sounds. That's beautiful, because this makes for a great late-night game, and being able to play it muted without affecting gameplay experience is a bonus.

The Lone Drawback: Integration

The only thing Ins and Outs is missing is Google Play Games integration. The game is integrated with Facebook, but as many Playboard fans have reminded me in the past, having your Android game (or service) integrate only with Facebook isn't the best. Well, Playboard now has Google+ integration - so we can only hope Ins and Outs gets on that bandwagon as well.

Social integration issues notwithstanding, Ins and Outs is brilliantly executed and a joy to play. A must-try.