Mobile Game Review: Good Fences

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I enjoy puzzle games because of how they help me to exercise my mind – with different types of puzzles expanding the boundaries of my consciousness in different ways. Sometimes, the simplest ideas make for some of the most challenging puzzles, especially in today’s world of smartphones, where games can be played anytime and anywhere. Craig Kaplan, creator of the Rocket Cup, has come up with an easy-to-play game (iOS and Android) that is both addictive and challenging. The concept is basic, and to play through the game just to complete the main requirements takes a reasonable amount of time – but the difficulty of some of the extended objectives will keep you entertained and thinking.

Each level of Good Fences presents players with a fixed shape (called the “Kernel”) that they must “fence in” with copies of that same shape. The surrounding copies of the Kernel can be rotated and flipped, which is necessary in some instances – while the basic requirement for each level is to surround the Kernel with a properly constructed Fence, there are sometimes other objectives that will require you to use fewer or more pieces. There are limitations on what you can get away with, too. For instance, corners of the Kernel cannot be exposed, and extra shapes placed outside of the Fence may not necessarily help your cause. Furthermore, all spaces must be filled in (so no gaps should exist within the boundary formed by the Fence). Finally, Fenceposts (notches in the Kernel and copies) must line up, otherwise the shape won’t count as part of the Fence.

As with most games, the first level functions as a tutorial, giving the player a good idea as to how to play the game. The controls are very easy – almost intuitive. Pressing on the Kernel and dragging your finger will create a copy of the Kernel, which can be moved (by pressing your finger on the copy and dragging), rotated (by picking a compass point along the edge of the Kernel clone and moving your finger clockwise or counter-clockwise about the shape), or “flipped” (create a mirror image by dragging one of the four compas points across the shape). Bringing the clone into close proximity to the Kernel (or another shape already attached to the Kernel) will cause it to snap into place, so you don’t have to have it exactly aligned. You can also copy a copy by holding your finger down on that piece, and you can discard pieces by tapping, holding, and dragging it onto the recycling icon located in the lower right corner.

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Pieces are easy to manipulate.

As I mentioned previously, each level can be completed by simply surrounding the Kernel with clones (while adhering to the rules). However, if players wish to challenge themselves, they can complete up to three other objectives (if they are available for that particular level). The Min challenge involves building a fence with the fewest number of clones, while Max will have the player struggling to fit as many Kernel clones together as optimally possible. Finally, the Two challenge can only be completed by building a second Fence around your first one. This may sound like an easy task, but the puzzles that feature this challenge are definitely not simple.

Good Fences gains most of its value from its longevity. With well over 400 puzzles to complete, one could spend a lot of time in this game if they chose to do so (and probably still not finish it). I personally enjoy playing the game in small chunks, completing one or two levels (completely) before shutting down my iPad. What’s addictive about the game is the fact that the solution to each puzzle does not exist on an answer key somewhere – you have to figure it out for yourself. If you don’t? Well, then you’ll have to come back and figure out -piece by piece- where you might have gone wrong. I find this sort of challenge a very delicious prospect.

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Plenty of challenges await.

While Good Fences had a bit of a rocky start (as Mr. Kaplan would tell you) with some odd crashes and stuttering when it first launched, the current build seems to be quite stable and is very enjoyable. Load times are quick, animation and visuals are easy on the eyes and simply beautiful, and the game can actually be played easily with one hand. I certainly haven’t finished Good Fences yet – not by a long shot; but it is one of those games that I can return to time and time again and enjoy it every single time that I play it.

You can check out the web page for the game Good Fences, and then you can grab yourself a copy of Good Fences for iOS or Android.

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