Biscuits and gravy prove it – sometimes you just can’t beat simple, and mobile games don’t get much more simple than PUK. Some mobile games try to emulate what console or PC games do better and some, like this one, capitalize on what makes the platform unique. PUK is a game stripped to its bare essentials that challenges you to quickly and repeatedly aim, shoot, and destroy targets. With its sharp, minimalist style, crunchy sound design, and addictive game play designed to be enjoyed in short bursts, PUK makes a good case to be the next game you install on your phone or tablet.
Learning to play takes a total of about ten seconds. The developer, Laser Dog, has designed a game so simple that apart from the title screen not a single line of text exists. To play, you simply fire pucks from the bottom of the screen at big circles on the top of the screen to destroy them. The really big circles might take more than one hit to destroy. (Hmm, sounds familiar.) Often objects will obscure the shot and you will have to bounce off or around them. If your puck finishes bouncing around and fails to hit its target you can shake your device to fling it from its stationary position to try to complete the deed. To complete the stage all this must be done in a matter of seconds, which creates a pace similar to the Wario Ware titles (Side note: it’s too bad Nintendo doesn’t make games for Android or iOS, Wario Ware would kick ass as a phone game).
Some levels prove easy to defeat, others trickier. I have yet to run across any single stage that seemed too difficult, but PUK is not a game about difficulty. It’s about endurance. Sure, completing a stage only takes a few seconds. But PUK boasts 1,000 levels, and you don’t play the levels in the same order every time. To advance you need to be quick, alert, and consistently accurate. I have no idea what happens at the end of 1,000 levels, and I will never know (my average game lasts somewhere between 30 and 50 levels before I screw up and lose), but I don’t think the end game matters. I keep picking the it up and trying to top my old high score – a number that gets harder and harder to beat almost every time I play. But that only makes me more determined.
The minimalist style of PUK perfectly matches the simplicity of its game play. The visuals are sharp and functional. For example, the pucks (puks?) that you sling all have arrows pointing up, which gives you the hint that those things are supposed to move in that general direction. Smart design choices like this help to push this game from an average casual app to something much more polished and special. The sound design also shines. Destroying one of the big circles with your puck results in an oh-so-satisfying crunchy thud noise, and completing a stage rewards you with an organic sounding “bing.” Destroying the last circle on a level is the best, because you get both the slap crunch and the bing all at once. The ambient music fits wonderfully and the tempo increases just enough to make you nervous when your time starts to run out.
PUK is basically the perfect mobile game. It’s simple to learn and play, lends itself wonderfully to short burst gaming sessions, and is fiercely addictive. The minimalist visual style looks great and the sound design shines. With most games I find myself selective with who I recommend them to. If you like puzzle games maybe you should try this, if you like arcade style games maybe you should try that, if you like RPGs maybe you should try this, etc. But not PUK. Everyone should play PUK. Your brother should play PUK. Your sister should play PUK. Your mom should play PUK. Your Grandpa should play PUK. You should play PUK. Now.
PUK is available on Android and iOS for about a dollar. The Android version was used for this review.
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