Bucketz for iPhone and iPad
Coco Chanel once famously advised women to look in the mirror before they left the house and remove one accessory. If the French fashion designer hadn’t died 40 years ago and was really into iOS gaming, she might look at Bucketz and cry out for the designers to remove lots of things—anything—to make this physics puzzler less cluttered.
The game from developer Picnic Hippo Studios features a number of buckets perched precariously on a balance beam. The precise number and size of the buckets, along with the location of the balance beam’s fulcrum, change from level to level. Objects rain down from the sky, and it’s up to you to guide them into the buckets, taking care not to overload one side or the other. Put too many objects on one side of the scale, and your buckets will go toppling over to their doom.
There are a lot of objects flying across your iPhone or iPad screen in Bucketz—I haven’t progressed very far in the game, but it wouldn’t shock me if a kitchen sink were to appear in the game, since just about everything else has been thrown in. To complicate matters, Picnic Hippo adds a bunch of obstacles: Smoke grenades, for example, fill the screen with clouds of multicolored smoke, obscuring your view. You’ll want to avoid tapping the screen blindly, as the game also includes bombs that fly into view and instantly end your game when you tap them. Because that apparently isn’t enough to contend with, blocks known as minions will occasionally pop up, blocking objects from reaching the buckets on your balance beam; you need to tap the minions multiple times to make them go away.
If it sounds like a lot is happening on the screen, that’s because it is. Bucketz is a frenetic, fast-paced game—and a rather unpleasant one at that. At any point in the game, your iOS device’s screen is likely to be a jumble of things you’re supposed to touch so that you can stash them, things you need to touch so that you can make them disappear, things you probably shouldn’t touch if you don’t want to make the game more difficult, and things you definitely don’t want to touch at all. Even the power-ups that ostensibly come to your aid aren’t all that helpful. Touch a disco ball, for example, and it will cause all the minions on your screen to fall by the wayside; it will also generate a pulsing strobe effect that’s rather nauseating to look at. While all this is going on, everyone on the screen—the buckets and the minions—is chattering away at you. It’s an assault on the senses, which is typically not a quality I’m looking for in casual games.
I found the physics in Bucketz a little hard to follow. Some large objects weigh very little while some of the tinier objects weigh a ton. Add in the changing position of the fulcrum, and it’s hard to get a read on what’s going to send your buckets toppling over. That’s part of the challenge, obviously, but with all the on-screen activity going on, figuring out the physics in Bucketz feels less a matter of strategy and more like a random guessing game.
There’s no order to how the objects fall in Bucketz, meaning you can play the same level multiple times without having the same outcome. That should bolster replayability, I suppose, if Bucketz offered anything I wanted to play a second time. Each of the five sections in the game ends with a boss level, but there’s a catch: You’ve got to collect enough stars on each of the levels in order to unlock the boss. (Bucketz uses a three-star scoring system for each level.) I’ve completed each of the 15 levels in the Dreamzzz world of Bucketz, but I haven’t collected enough stars in the process, so the game has come to a grinding halt for me. I can’t pretend to be disappointed by that.
I’m sure that a lot of people will enjoy the relentless, distracting action of Bucketz. A lot of people like a lot terrible things that don’t appeal to me—energy drinks, TV shows that reward caterwauling would-be pop stars, loud noises. If you look at iOS games and think, “Man, my screen just isn’t filled with enough clutter and mayhem,” then you will likely embrace Bucketz. Me, I prefer a game that places more of a premium on fun than on throwing whatever it can imagine at me.
[Philip Michaels is the managing editor of TechHive Media.]