The game Othello was always billed as taking “a minute to learn, a lifetime to master.” The same could also be said for Super Blackout on the PlayStation Vita. However, this simple to learn but difficult to master game probably has more in common with another frustratingly difficult game that was the bane of my childhood: the Rubik’s Cube. Both have the root of their puzzles in patterns and mathematics. To the untrained eye, it’s a jumble of colors and shapes, but to an analytical mastermind, it’s a puzzle written in a language waiting to be learned.
Super Blackout is essentially the Rubik’s Cube brought into the digital age. It can be maddeningly difficult at times, but when the code is finally cracked, the sense of accomplishment is all the greater.
Super Blackout consists of a 6×6 grid of tiles that are either lit or blacked out. Selecting a tile will reverse its color and also reverse the colors of the tiles above, below, and to either side of it. The goal is to turn off all the tiles with the fewest possible moves to leave the screen all black. Probably easier said than done.
The game starts you off with 30 different Easy levels to try before you move on to the 30 Medium and 30 Hard levels… which can be extremely hard. There is also the option to play a stream of random levels from any of the difficulty levels, or even to create your own levels. The downside with the user created levels is that there is no way to share them with other players, nor is there a way to download levels that other players have created.
The Easy levels are a nice introduction into the game and help to explain the language the game uses. It provides some basic scenarios with patterns that will recur in other levels. These are the puzzles that demonstrate how you want to “move” the pieces into corners and the edges to finishes things up. Then once the solutions to these basic puzzles are understood, it’s time to move on to the challenges that Medium and Hard offer.
I was able to breeze through most of the Easy levels with few problems. It wasn’t until I increased the difficulty did I truly understand the challenge of the game. The times of finishing a puzzle in five moves or less were gone. To be honest, the times of finishing the puzzle at all were mostly gone as well. The solution would be staring me right in the face, but a lot of times I just couldn’t see it. But then, I was never great at these kind of games, and the Rubik’s Cube… well, I’ve probably never solved one in my life.
That’s not a knock on the game at all. The concept is simple even if the solutions are not. But everything else, from the graphics to the controls, are exceedingly simple and easy to learn. You can choose between touching the tiles or using the sticks to highlight which tile you want to flip. Both work flawlessly. The only problem I had was in the location of the Quit button. It’s located so close to one of the boxes that it is very easy to accidentally touch, and since there’s no confirmation prompt once pressed, it’s easy to lose your progress accidentally.
The graphics are also about as simple as you can get. There is no fluff or pizazz to the presentation in Super Blackout. The music is also soft, soothing, and probably best just turned off. I found that when trying to concentrate here, silence is golden.
Super Blackout is the ultimate case of “what you see is what you get.” It’s a challenging puzzle game with very simple rules. It’s also very bare boned, and while it does offer a nice level editor, it doesn’t offer any way to share these user generated levels.
Judging Super Blackout is really a matter of personal taste. What it does, it does well. The only question is whether or not these kind of puzzles are your cup of tea. The bite-sized puzzles offer the perfect pick-up-and-play opportunities that Vita owners love so much, and I think puzzle lovers will have a good time mulling over the solutions to these tricky problems.