App Rec: Blackbar

Over the weekend, we started seeing references to Blackbar pop up on some of our favorite Mac blogs (Touch Arcade, iMore), so we were excited to give it a shot. After spending the weekend playing it (and puzzling over it when I wasn’t playing it), I can see why people were talking.


First, the details. 

Blackbar is a $2.99 universal app. It requires iOS 6.1 or later, and will run on the iPhone 3gs and above, iPad 2 or above, and iPod touch 3rd generation and above. There are not in-app purchases.


Why we like it:


You’ll understand what you need to do as soon as you open the app up to the first letter. Blackbar is a text based game — there are no graphics, and there’s no pressure. It takes place in an alternate universe or future where no citizen has a reasonable expectation of privacy; the letters that you are receiving as Vi are read and censored by the Department of Communication. You have to use clues in the letter, context and knowledge of past letters to fill in those blanks. You can gauge the length of the word by the size of the bar, and when you’ve made a correct entry the word turns yellow. The puzzles gently ramp up in difficulty, and there are times when nothing helps but walking away and letting the puzzle stew for a bit. It’s a bit like solving a crossword.


It’s a fairly short game — depending on how quick you are to solve the puzzles it can take anywhere from an hour to a couple of days. I posted to twitter in pleased bafflement on a few puzzles and quickly got commiseration from strangers in the same boat (although in general everyone was very careful not to give away solutions unless directly asked, which is wonderful). I found the ending a bit abrupt and mysterious, which I hope was the intention; I’d gladly buy a sequel to this game for more puzzles and more story. 


Like a lot of folks out there, I started my computer gaming experience with text based games (on an Apple IIGS!), so I found the lack of bells and whistles comforting. Adding any to the game would have taken away from it as a whole.