The micro-team behind PuzzleJuice is under no illusions about just how hard its game can be. The tutorial warns how this is a puzzler "that will punch your brain in the face", the difficulty modes start from Hard, and the so-called Zen Mode is less calming than being hit by a truck.
This might sound like an intimidating intro to an iOS app, but it paints an accurate picture of the game's initial challenge. PuzzleJuice is a triathlon of different games, all competing in unison and prodding various parts of your addled brain at the same time.
It's a block-dropping game like Tetris, as sharp-edged bricks plummet from the top of the screen. Your aim is to build perfect rows and avoid messy gaps, but unlike in Russia's greatest export these blocks won't disappear when they line up.
Instead they turn into a stack of letters, and PuzzleJuice morphs into a word-hunting game like Boggle. This alphabet soup is teeming with words, and you trace your finger from tile to tile to pry them loose. Longer words net more points, and also dissipate nearby tiles in the process.
Finally, it's a colour-matching game like Puyo-Pop. The dropping blocks are split into smaller, coloured bricks. Match up three or more of the same colour to uncover even more letters. This lets you strategically add a precious few more tiles like an emergency air drop of vowels.
The component ingredients of PuzzleJuice are dramatically different - the spatial thrill of lining up blocks is in stark contrast to the analytical challenge of worming out words - and juggling them often ends in a flop sweat and a panicked cry of "hold on a minute!" It's like doing open heart surgery while playing Dance Dance Revolution.
But order lurks beneath the chaos. Soon enough your brain's synaptic highways reroute and the jumble of disparate games coalesce into a singular, focused entity: a sophisticated puzzle game about multitasking and thinking several moves ahead.
There's more to it than just hitting high scores and bragging on Twitter, of course. There are overarching objectives to beat - like spell 20 words of four letters or more - so you've always got something tangible to aim for. These challenges help you unlock power-ups, like bombs and time-stopping ice shards.
At times, the game feels slightly too big for its boots. Even if your brain can stomach the challenge, the iPhone can't quite handle it. Playing Boggle and Tetris and Puzzle League on the same screen inevitably leads to fiddly control fumbles - like when I meant to move a block but ended up spelling out "gut". Gut! It ruined my bloody streak.
iOS isn't exactly hurting for puzzle games: other than apps with "Angry" in the title, it might be the most well-served genre around. But by brewing such a potent mix of different ideas, PuzzleJuice's unique blend manages to stand out from the rest. Anyone fit for the challenge will find a satisfying game that lasts.
VideoGamer.com Score8 Score out of 10
- Leaderboards and mini-missions offer two ways to score
- A clever mix of three different games
- Funky minimalist style and a sense of humour
- Control issues can frustrate or fluff-up your game