Constant C is a great example of an indie developer having a brainwave about a new play mechanic and really running with it until its logical conclusion. The game combines elements of 2D platform hopping, a physics-based sandbox and lateral thinking puzzles into a quirky yet unified whole. It may also make you drop your phone, causing hundreds of pounds of real-world damage.
The game is set in a world where some kind of scientific meddling has caused the laws of nature to become suspended. Time and Gravity are frozen, leaving an inert and dead world in which nothing moves or ages.
You play Constant C - a little robot that has been fitted with a 'circle of power' which can reawaken the physical laws for a brief time. As you walk about the map you will trigger objects such as falling blocks and moving platforms, which can both help and harm you -- use this ability to manoeuvre bits of the environment to where you want them, and that's the premise of the game.
You also have the ability to control gravity using a combination of the accelerometer and a 'G' button. If you rotate the phone and press the button, gravity will flip and you will fall in whatever direction is now 'down' -- as will any objects within your circle of influence.
Early levels are simple one-room affairs designed to teach the basics of the control scheme, but as you progress the puzzles get tougher and you are required to use a combination of platform precision and lateral thinking to work out how to get to the exit without being crushed, falling too far or being impaled on the kind of spikes that really shouldn't be in a scientific research facility. Honestly. What were they THINKING?
The central mechanic is really well thought out and the physics engine is responsive and accurate enough for the demands of a 2D game.
The puzzles themselves are for the most part brilliantly constructed, and you are often left with the feeling that there is more than one way to solve some of the tougher challenges. There is no time limit or scoring system and the only reward is the feeling of satisfaction you get on cracking each brainteaser.
Graphically the game is a little sparse, with only a few basic textures and objects used to construct most levels. The central character has a cute Sackboy-like quality though and the physics engine works well enough. Given that this is an indie effort given away for free we think we can forgive the poor art direction.
Our biggest concern is in the rotating control mechanism. Yes, it is an interesting idea, but it does make the game a bit fiddly to play at times. We can't help thinking that somebody, somewhere is going to end up dropping their phone as a result. If played on a tablet like the Motorola Xoom, we think the game could legitimately count as exercise.
Oh, and there is a plot, before you ask -- some kind of nonsense about solving the mystery of the dark forces controlling the universe, that you can unearth by reading computer terminals scattered about the levels. We didn't really care, if we are honest. Without it, the game is just a bunch of interesting puzzles and that was enough for us.
Constant C is available now on the Android Marketplace for free.