At first glance Amazing Alex is so impressively unremarkable you might think you've accidentally woken up in a parallel universe where the whole world has become obsessed with the mundane. Hey! Bask in the unmitigated simplicity of a single football rolling down a slope. This is a physics puzzler? It's the kind of opening that makes Cut the Rope look like an overclocked Deep Thought in comparison.
You'll plod on through these tasteless korma beginnings, though, because you'll want to get some value out of that 69p you're desperately worried you've just wasted but also because there's a tiny slither of hope that this physics puzzler might start to get a bit puzzling.
Thankfully, it does. Amazing Alex is all about presenting challenges (to Alex) and allowing you to place a collection of household objects to solve it (because Alex is amazing, but presumably only at physics).
The structure and scoring of the game are classic iPhone fare, made ubiquitous in part by Rovio's own efforts with Angry Birds, and have you schlepping for three stars across 112 levels split between Alex's classroom, backyard, bedroom and treehouse. Each new area brings with it new elements, as you might expect, layering additional considerations on top of the basics. Eventually, about mid-way through the second batch of levels, you'll find yourself having to think (not a lot, but enough) and that, as you might expect, makes the game more interesting.
Still, the moribund starting difficulty represents Amazing Alex's biggest problem. It's not always precisely clear what it is you're supposed to be doing - are you supposed to pop the balloon, for instance, or let it fly away? - so the game has to go through loads and loads of baby steps so you can be made aware of all the various objectives in the most basic way possible. As the game progresses, and because it doesn't signpost itself very well, you'll find yourself having a couple of test runs just to familiarise yourself with the level.
Amazing Alex's most notable success comes from the way it stores everyone's solution to each puzzle, and allows you to share them with your Game Center friends. When you've just accomplished one of the trickier puzzles it's certainly nice to see how your mates cracked it, and there's a level editor (with sharing options) for you to have a go at designing your own creations.
It's also nice to see Rovio make something that's clearly not intended to become a marketing phenomenon; I doubt we'll be seeing any plush figures of Amazing Alex's fantastic array of pipes and tables anytime soon. But, well, it's just that Amazing Alex isn't quite as amazing as his avian contemporaries. The concept isn't quite so clean, so that simple elegance of design isn't quite there, and while some of the puzzles massage your brain it becomes apparent very quickly that none of what you're doing is particularly memorable.
When I recall my time with Amazing Alex I can only really remember throwing a couple of tennis balls down a pipe. And that's not really that amazing, is it?
Version Tested: iPhone