Review: Not Without You
Little blue fluffy creatures, all across the land, who you must shepherd to the next level? It can only be a 'cute' puzzle game for the weekend. It's called Not Without You, and it is one of the more enjoyable forms of frustration available to mobile gamers.
Version Reviewed: 126.96.36.199
At first glance, Not Without You is another variant of a well-worn gaming genre. You have a top down level to play in, and dotted around the levels are a number targets you need to reach. But rather than being objects to pick up, these are trap doors that you need to stand on top of to finish a level - which is represented by the trap doors opening.
Which is an easy task to manage if you are just one character on your own, but Not Without You is a game built around co-operation. Not with other players (this is a one-player gaming experience), but with the multiple on-screen 'cryptids' that need to be steered onto the trap doors. They all need to be occupying the trap doors at the same time or they won't open. Controlling them is a simple matter of a swipe on the screen, either up, down, left or right (this is a game using the four main directions), but the results are far from simple... because you cannot control an individual cryptid. When you swipe a direction, every cryptid will try to move in that direction.
The only thing you can do to stop that is to use the edge of the playing area and the walls dotted around the level. If one cryptid is blocked, the others will still move. This allows you to work at getting the cryptids into the correct formation and then manoeuvre them over the red trap doors.
It's a wonderful mental challenge, and I like the process of having to deal with the group of characters, trying to separate out the awkward individuals from the group. The control system is simple, there's very little to get wrong, and it all just works.
The level design is devilish. As you progress through the game, you'll find more tweaks, including teleports to move you around the levels, and some levels where there are more cryptids than trap doors. As long as every trap door is covered, the level will reach a successful conclusion, so you need to decide which one you are going to sacrifice and leave behind.
When the app was launched in early August, it came with 80 levels for you to work through. 27 of these were packaged as a story, with a voiceover at the start of some levels, pitching the game as an expedition (by Lewis and Clark) which has come across the cryptids and is documenting their behaviour.
Next to these story levels are 18 bonus levels available as a 'challenge' option from the menu, bundled in three packs of six levels to attack.
Which leaves 35 levels, and these can be found in the 'Downloadable Levels' section. That takes us to 80, but the final trick of Not Without You is that it has a built in level editor so you can create your own levels and share them online through the game. At the moment there are only a handful of these third party levels available, and I'd love to see more of them show up - of course, that needs a lot of people to be playing Not Without You, so that the small percentage of them who do create the levels will create a decent number of levels.
Not Without You looks like an application that has had some care and attention spend on it. The graphics pop out of the screen and feel solid, the backgrounds have some wonderful textures that add vitality but are not overly complicated, and the difficulty curve does rise quite rapidly, but it's not too overpowering.
It can be frustrating, and some people will happily throw their phone against a wall when they can't get the cryptids to the trap doors, but for me this is the sort of game that I really enjoy.
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at