Review: Binaryfish All Mobile Logic

AML Hitori 2User forums are a nice place to hang out, you never know when you find something you otherwise probably wouldn’t have found. While browsing the SBSH forums I found a post from Merlin, pointing readers at All Mobile Logic by Binaryfish (which you may know from All Mobile Mines, the free Minesweeper implementation for your PPC). As a coincidence, I just purchased a little book with Hashi puzzles and I had been searching for implementations of this puzzle for Windows Mobile, so I was very happy when Merlin told about this application that was released pretty recently (Oct. 18 2007).
All Mobile Logic contains three games: Sudoku, Hitori and Hashi and I will discuss all of these. However, assuming that you already know Sudoku, I will skip it’s rules. You will want to read through the Sudoku section anyway, though, since it contains bits of info that apply to the other games as well, and I might not mention them there since I’ll also introduce these games to you. :)

Read on past the break!

Install and Trial

AML TrialPretty much the only downside of the game is that, for non WM6 users, you will need to install the .Net Compact Framework 2 if you don’t have that already. It’s part of the installation process so there’s not much time spent on finding the .Net CF, but personally I’ve always tried to avoid apps that require the .Net CF. It takes space to have it installed, and having it on my device for just one or two apps that do something that other apps can do just as well without the .Net CF, never made sense for me. However, since I will probably get a WM6 device soon (which should contain the .Net CF pre-installed) I will no longer avoid apps that require the .Net CF and I’ll just accept that the Framework will sit on my device for just this game. ;-)

What you should know about the trial limitations is almost all displayed in this screenshot, so there’s not much to tell. Through the entire game you will find that the on-screen instructions, along with the Help file, are very helpful and contain all the information you need. In addition to the trial limitations mentioned in the screenshot, you can only play some puzzles in each category, All Mobile Logic will cycle through them.

Sudoku

After the Registration screen, you’ll immediately be presented with a tutorial for Sudoku. Check out some screenshots of this tutorial. (I’ll post thumbnails which you can click to see the full version, let’s see if this works better with the layout of this blog. Having two screenshots next to each other cuts off the right-most part of the right-most image, so this alternative might be better for larger groups of images. Please tell me in the comments what you think!)

AML Sudoku Tut 1 AML Sudoku Tut 2 AML Sudoku Tut 3 AML Sudoku Tut 4

As I said before, the on-screen instructions are very clear, and if you read them closely, you’ll instantly know what to expect of this Sudoku implementation and where to find it. Instead of writing one large text about it, I think it’s better to just point out the pro’s, many of which also apply to Hashi and Hitori:

  • Hardware and stylus support
  • Left soft-key toggles Pen/Pencil mode to insert final numbers or candidates
  • Auto-insert pencilmarks, and auto-update (which makes this a very useful implementation for beginners!)
  • You can filter a number, which highlights that number everywhere on the screen. For example, highlighting the 3 on the screenshot to the right will highlight all 3’s, so you can easily see that in the top right box the 3 should be in the bottom left box (even if there wouldn’t be any pencil marks)
  • Hint feature, and Check feature (to mark mistakes). If you use one of these, you will not be able to get a highscore because you “cheated”.
  • AML Sudoku popupTwo ways of entering numbers: with the bottom bar (first select the number and then the cell; not displayed here, but you can see it in the Tutorial images if you look closely at the bottom), or with the popup (first tap the cell and then the number; seen to the right).
  • Color marks: the first square button on the bottom bar lets you select one of 9 colors, which you can use to mark cells
  • Delete button and (unlimited!) Undo button
  • Ability to enter a puzzle manually
  • Ability to save your game in a file so you can store it somewhere, and ability to share your game through e-mail or beam
  • 1200 built-in puzzles for 4 difficulty levels
  • Game Statistics displaying your results and Puzzle Details displaying the required game solving techniques. A;l solving techniques are described and explained in the Help file! Both screens (not the Help file) displayed below

AML Sudoku MenuAML Statistics AML Puzzle details

I think that All Mobile Logic includes a very good implementation of Sudoku. The Hint feature isn’t very sophisticated like on Astraware Sudoku which contains “strategical hints”, but the Mark and (Ill say it again, unlimited!) Undo features are also important, and they serve their job very well. And, we shouldn’t forget that you don’t pay for just one Sudoku game, you also get Hitori and Hashi included, which are both very interesting games!
Finally, the Menu screen on the right shows a quite large menu. Most of the items it contains have been mentioned above, but one thing I’d like to point out is that you can set the backlight to stay on all the time. This should override your default backlight timeout settings! (Here it gets even with Astraware, who’s Sudoku game doesn’t have this feature)

Hitori

In Hitori, you start with a grid with numbers. In that grid, some columns and rows contain a number twice. Your goal is to mark cells black (“shade” those cells), so that there are no longer any double cells in a row or column. All the cells that can remain in a column should be painted yellow (officially, it’s called “circling” the cells). For example, if there are three 7’s in a column, two must be painted black so that only one 7 remains which must be painted yellow.
In the example to the left, there are a 4 and 5 painted black in the top row, so that the remaining 4 and 5 can be painted yellow.
They MUST be painted yellow, because a second rule in Hitori is that all cells above/below/left/right of a black cell, must be yellow. So every time you make a cell black, you should make the cell adjacent to it yellow (see second screen). Black cells are not allowed to touch each other horizontally or vertically, but they can touch diagonally.
The third rule is that all yellow cells MUST touch horizontally or vertically to at least one other yellow cell, and they have to be in a single group. So in the second screen, if we would make the 4 in the top right color black, the 2 on the top row would be isolated, which is wrong. Therefore, the 4 in the top left corner must be yellow. Several solving techniques are available, following these rules. In addition to reading the Help file, consulting the internet for more info doesn’t hurt either (read on Wikipedia or follow this tutorial).
The third screenshots shows the solution to one of the puzzles. Here you can see that in each row/column, there are no two yellow cells with the same value, no black cells are connected horizontally/vertically, and all yellow cells are connected horizontally/vertically in one group.

AML Hitori 1 AML Hitori 2 AML Hitori 3

Again, the Check and Hint features are available, just like the Solve feature which will solve the puzzle for you. You can also filter each number which is very useful for this puzzle. Puzzle details are available, and again you can here see the techniques required to solve the puzzle. 1200 puzzles are available in each of the 4 difficulty levels, puzzles can be entered manually, saved, sent through e-mail, and you can view your statistics. The on-screen buttons in the middle allow you to mark a cell (two shades of grey are available for marking here), remove the yellow/black ‘paint’ (which isn’t really necessary, because tapping a cell toggles between unpainted/black/yellow), and Undo.
What I liked about this game in particular is that if you mark a cell as black, the game can (optionally) recognize that the cells adjacent to it must be yellow. So if you tap that cell, you can only make it yellow or leave it unpainted, the black paint (“shade”) is disabled. If you remove the paint from the black cell, the other cell can be painted all colors again.
This game is very entertaining and challenging, and while it can be hard and confusing to pick up, it’s defenitely worth it. Just study the tutorial (which can be accessed from the menu) closely! I’ve managed to get the hang of this game and I hope to play at harder difficulties soon (these puzzles have quite larger grids). ;-)

Hashi

AML Hashi progressThe third game is called Hashi, or Hashiwokakero (“Building bridges”, or simply “Bridges” in English). This is what started my main interest for All Mobile Logic. The screen is filled with islands, all of which contain a number. This number indicates the amount of bridges (straight lines) that connect this island to islands above, below, to the left, or to the right of it. Various rules apply. First, there is a maximum of two bridges between two islands. Second, all islands must be connected in a large group. Also, lines/bridges cannot cross. So if two islands with a 2 are next to each other, you can’t place two bridges between those, since that would mean that you can’t connect them to another island (since you already built the maximum amount of 2 bridges) and this would be an isolated group. Therefore, the 2 in the top left corner, can’t have both bridges to the right (it would create an isolated group) and not to the bottom either. So, it will have to split the bridges: one down, and one to the right. As soon as the maximum amount of bridges is reached, the island will automatically be painted grey. Depending on your settings, you can 1) no longer add any bridges to the island, or 2) still add bridges to an island. The second option allows you to make mistakes, so beginners shouldn’t use this. It’s like not being able to enter a number in a cell while solving a Sudoku if that number already exists in the block, row, or column.

AML Hashi Tut 1 Hashi Tut 2 AML Hashi done

Gameplay is really intuitive through the entire game. For Hashi, just put your stylus on an island, and drag to the island you want to create a bridge to. Then take the stylus off the screen, and there’s your bridge! Repeat this to add the second bridge, and repeat again to remove them again (just like cycling through the painted states in Hitori). This game is ‘simply’ about processual force: if you create a bridge, that will limit you in your options to build the following bridge. So you should either be able to ‘draw’ a new bridge, or find a place where you can’t place a bridge to one of the sides. Finding places where bridges can’t be built is essential to the game, so it’s a bit of a problem that there’s no way to mark such situations. On paper, I use pencil marks to draw a straight line at the edge of a circle if no bridge can be built. I don’t know if more people do this or if there is a more widely accepted method for these situations, but personally I would very much like a way (any way) to mark the places where bridges can NOT be built.

Finally, I’ll need to mention that the same features as with the previous games are also available here, like unlimited undo, 1200 puzzles in each difficulty, game details with solving methods, and the ability to use pencil marks. These pencil marks will create bridges in a different color, but they will still block you from creating regular bridges that cross the pencil marks. Crossing bridges shouldn’t be possible, but regular bridges should be dominant to pencil marks. Like on Sudoku: if you have a cell filled with pencil marks, you can still enter a regular (large) number in that cell, and it will override all the pencil marks. On Hashi however, you first need to remove the pencil marks before you can place the actual, correct, bridge. So this is pretty much the only area that I would prefer some improvement on: the ability to mark sides of an island that can’t have bridges, and having regular bridges being dominant to pencil mark bridges.

Options, etc.

AML HelpAfter discussing all the games, I would like to walk with you through the various options pages, but not before mentioning the Help file again. Not only does the help file contain the game rules, it also contains solving techniques which are further explained with images within the relevant sections. I know I mentioned the Help file before, but since a Help file like this isn’t included with every game, some extra attention is well deserved. It’s useful to be able to read through this file on your device, so you don’t have to browse to a website for additional information. I do have to mention though, that the page for Sudoku Options couldn’t be found, and also one of the images didn’t appear on the screen, so the Help file isn’t completely without errors (or it’s my device to blame). Update: go to Menu > More > Check for updates to download an update which fixes this issue!

We’ve not discussed the entire menu with all it’s options, but most of the items that can be accessed through the menu have been mentioned. However, I would like to show you all the Options pages, so you can see how the games can be tweaked to your liking.

AML Menu 3There are five Options pages: one for general settings, three for the games, and one for the background settings.
On the General page you can disable the sounds effects. There is no in-game music, and as you might know, I don’t mind, since I always mute music anyway. So for the same reason (not annoying other people around me), I disabled the sound here as well. You can also toggle the setting which lets the game ask you if imported games should be saved, to prevent you from accidentally losing your imported game. The background settings (last page) let you pick your own background, if you don’t like the included background settings.
The Hashi settings let you lock island when the maximum amount of bridges is reached, meaning that you can’t add any more bridges. Disabling this let’s you make mistakes, but is more like puzzling on paper, since paper can’t prevent you from making mistakes either! You can also improve visibility by enabling the grid lines on the background, and making the bridges larger.
For Hitori, you can change the ways to paint a cell. You can toggle the color with the softkey and then tap a cell, you can cycle between colors by tapping, or you can use various gestures to apply the yellow color to a cell, or shade it. You can also set “Smart input”, which means that if a cell can’t be made black, you will only cycle through unpainted/yellow – the shade option is then removed from that cyclus for the relevant cells. You can hide the numbers on cells that have been shaded (made black), and also set some visibility enhancement options.
Finally, for Sudoku, you can toggle pencilmarks to be numbers and dots, and you can enable the alternative input method for numbers: the pop-up number pad.

AML Menu 1 AML Menu 2 AML Menu 4 AML Menu 5

Conclusion

As we’ve seen, All Mobile Logic is a VERY complete game, because not only it contains no less than three games, there are also plenty of additional useful features, and the tutorials and Help file are really useful both for getting to know the games as well as to find out some new solving techniques.
A small request from my side would be that the pencil marks on Hashi could be improved. For now, the current situation where you can’t mark places where bridges can NOT be placed, just adds to the challenge, but having this feature would complete the game in my opinion.
However, this request doesn’t have a significant impact on my opinion of this game. Just the Sudoku implementation would probably already be worth the money. It may not be the absolute best or most complete, but the fact that two additional (both very well implemented) games, Hashi and Hitori, are included as well, makes this game defenitely worth the money.

Finally, I will need to mention that installing the .Net CF 2 in order to play this game has certainly been worth the storage space! And, of course, if you’re on a WM 6 device you don’t need to worry about this at all since WM 6 includes this Compact Framework already.

Update: Only a couple of hours after the review was posted, Binaryfish contacted me, asking which Help pages gave me issues, and saying that my request regarding Hashi would be considered for future releases. It’s good to see that feedback matters and that a developer cares about the reviews being written.

Name: All Mobile Logic
Version: 1.01
By: Binaryfish
Platforms/OS: Windows Mobile Professional and Classic, as well as PPC WM 2003, and PPC WM5
Resolutions: VGA, QVGA and square screens
Price: $17.95
Download trial or purchase!

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