Ian MacLarty has found his niche, if he so chooses.
If you claimed Dissembler was a Match-3 game, I wouldn’t blame you. But that would be reductive and it belies the brilliance employed in Ian MacLarty’s latest creation. This isn’t the first genre in which he plays with your expectations. Four years after Canabalt practically created the auto-runner genre, we were done with it. Uninspred clones riddled with In-App Purchases flooded the App Store. But then, MacLarty injected a dose of freshness back into auto-running with his first commercial release, Boson X, just as he is now injecting freshness into Match-3 with Dissembler.
One of the ways Ian managed to reinvent what Canabalt started was to combine it with another inspiration, Super Hexagon. Here’s what Touch Arcade said about that influence:
Also like Super Hexagon, your movement is rotational. The platforms broadly form in the shape of a tunnel, and you can move clockwise or counter-clockwise around it, one jump at a time. That’s all your character can do, in fact. Jump left, jump right, or jump forward, all accomplished by touching either side of the screen or both sides at once.
Just as Boson X combined Canabalt and Super Hexagon, Dissembler meshes Match-3 with the minimal presentation of games like Threes, Mini Metro or SpellTower. Dissembler leverages this simplistic presentation and the introductory puzzles to lull you into a sense of comfort. It starts with a cold open right into the first puzzle and a clear suggestion on how to solve it. The next two puzzles are also instructional and that completes your first set of 3.
For the next few sets of puzzles however, you feel a bit as though you’re just fumbling in the dark magically coming to a solution. As you progress, you begin to realize the designs of each puzzle have been gently guiding you to the right solution by minimizing the number of moves available to you. By the fourth set you’re starting to get acclimated to the ruleset when Dissembler throws a curveball and warns you: you can screw yourself early on by removing a chunk of the play area thus limiting what you can do after. This drives you to start making safer moves: removing only chunks at the edge when possible.
As soon as you start to get used to this new challenge, Dissembler introduces a new one, and then another and another. Very quickly you’re introduced to new tilesets where you have to match symbols and then nested tiles that will have to be solved twice to clear completely, immovable tiles and all the combinations of those tilesets that you can imagine.
You’re never quite comfortable but the puzzle design grants the player a moment of accomplishment once they’ve mastered a mechanic right before they’re challenged all over again. And that’s just the main “Puzzles” mode. Beyond that, there’s also a Daily and Infinite mode which leaves plenty of compelling content to explore for $3.99.