I have never been one to get very involved in the more social aspects of gaming for the iDevice but the latest app I was asked to review really gave me no choice. Star Diamonds Paradise, which was developed by Star Arcade, is a puzzle game that is designed to be played against an opponent – a real human one online, not some computer generated foe. Now I may not be used to battling online much from my iDevice (in this case my iPad but the app is also compatible with the iPhone and the iPod Touch) but I am competitive in general so quite looking forward to a challenge – I hoped – I paid my $1.99 (there is a free version but its full of ads) and fired up the app ready to head into battle….

Sounds and Graphics 4/5

colorful puzzler

Even from the start up registration screens I was impressed with the colors and clarity of the graphics. This is (on the face of it at least) a rather simple game and while there is no need for the graphics to be over complicated the fact that they are bright, very easy on the eye and attractive is a definite plus.

In terms of sound there is just enough. A nice little background ditty, all the right noises when your chains come together and very little else. This is not a bad thing as this game, when you get serious about it requires quite a bit of concentration and who needs some unnecessary noises distracting them?

Overall I think that Star Diamonds Paradise has a great interface and in this category merits a 4/5 for sure.

Gameplay 4/5

The premise behind Star Diamonds Paradise is a ridiculously simple one. Faced with a screen full of hexagons, each of which has a different symbol on it, your aim is to sweep together as long a chain of like boxes as you can.

Before you can begin to play you have to create an account. There is a Facebook integration to make the process faster, which I found very convenient, but you can also opt to create a stand alone Star Arcade account if you choose to instead. Either way the process only takes a minute or so and you are then all set to take on any opponents that come your way.

The fact that you are facing an opponent at all times is where the real challenge lies. If you were playing alone then you would have all the time in the world to scan the rows looking for the best possible chains but the clock is ticking and someone, somewhere, is tapping their foot impatiently waiting for their turn! Often, frustratingly I would see a better chain after the fact, when I had already made my move, at which point my only hope was that my unseen, unknown opponent would not see it either!

There are bonuses for extra long chains and there are a few nasty surprises to avoid in the form of dynamite and other nasties. They are easy to see but if you are busy trying to build what you think is a really big chain then they can be just as easy to overlook too! You can collect tile sets to gain extra powers and there are other power ups to be earned that can beef up your cred as a worthy opponent as well.

Play with friends

At the end of each game if the player you are up against is also a registered player instead of a unknown guest you have the opportunity to interact with them. In fact you can build yourself quite the little army of friendly foes if you like, not something I’ve ever really done before but it was actually rather neat.

How much of a challenge you will find Star Diamonds Paradise to be will depend, to a great extent, on how good your opponent is. Some people were really bad and ran away from the game after just a few moves while others presented me with a real challenge. One of the great things about the social networking aspect of the game though is that once you find a worthy opponent you can hook up and then challenge each other directly (as well as engage in a little trash talking too!)

Overall I really rather liked this game so I think it deserves a here too.

Value for Money 3.5/5

As I mentioned there are both free and paid versions of Star Diamonds Paradise. The paid version I used to review the game I installed on my iPad but I did add the free version to my iPhone, just to see how annoying the ads were, or how limited the free gameplay was.

The actual gameplay in both versions seems very much the same and the ads in the free version did not intrude on the game directly but they certainly slowed it down. Given the very extensive replay value of this game though $1.99 is a relatively reasonable price.

Summary

Star Diamonds Paradise is a neat little time waster and as my introduction to social gaming versus just keeping track of high scores in the Game Center or Open Feint it was an enjoyable one. I think if you are a puzzle fan this really is a game worth trying – and if you do ,look me up and challenge me because I am getting better and looking for new foes…

Source: http://www.star-arcade.com

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