Color Zen review: Chill puzzler tests logic, not patience

Large Animal Games' latest creation is Color Zen, a puzzle game with simple mechanics that tests your ability to think calmly and logically. It's very aptly named - you need to clear your mind and focus on the task at hand to win each level.

The gameplay of Color Zen is beguilingly simple: change the color of the game field to match the color of the border surrounding it. You do this by making two same-colored shapes collide. The collision causes an explosion of color that fills the screen.

The game starts off slowly - the first few levels are very easy. There are six "chapters" in Color Zen, each revealing different challenges that you must master: first you learn basic gameplay mechanics - some shapes move, other shapes don't. Shapes obey a set of physical laws for motion - they bounce off walls and each other. Then you find out that white shapes absorb whatever color touches them. Then you discover that black shapes do the opposite. Each chapter includes 20 levels. And at least at this stage, that's it - there's no option to buy or download new levels.

Each puzzle is really lovely to look at - like like pieces of mosaic abstract art, careful geometries of squares, rectangles, circles, triangles and more. They're accompanied by a soothing downtempo electronic soundtrack and low-key sound effects that reward you for making shapes collide. Getting to the end of the puzzle forces you to think carefully through the steps, understanding the relationships of the different pieces in each puzzle and how to make them go away to reveal two final pieces that will match the border.

There are no points amassed and no timers in Color Zen, so there's no benefit to rushing through, no extra credit for panache or flair. You can take your time with each level, and sometimes you really have to, working backwards and inside out to figure out how to end up with the colored shapes you need to win.

You can replay any level you've played before - new levels are unlocked as you complete their predecessor. If you get totally frustrated with a level, there is an out - you can pay a one-time fee of 99 cents more to unlock all levels.

The good

  • Interesting puzzle play with simple mechanics
  • Eschews stressers like timers or challenges
  • Beautiful to look at and listen to.

The bad

  • Too short

Bottom line

Color Zen is a nice break from puzzle games that are loaded with in-app purchases, timers and relentless challenges from other players. It's just a nice way to mellow out and examine some pretty puzzles while solving them calmly. Color Zen quite admirably lives up to its name. I wish the game were longer, but I guess that's what sequels are for.

Peter Cohen