It takes longer than you would think to get to grips with Shuttle Shuffle. Despite its simple appearance, this puzzler quickly ramps up the difficulty, forcing you to utilize skills of forward planning and spatial awareness if you hope to progress.
It is a straightforward concept: guide a collection of cute aliens across a grid to their shuttles to allow them to fly home. To add a decent dose of challenge, you have a target number of moves in which to achieve this if you want to unlock the next stage - a number which frequently seems impossible at first glance.
It isn't just a case of getting any alien to any ship though, with each of the blobby little critters only able to fly a shuttle that is the same color as its own gelatinous form.
Not too hard you may think, but once the second wrinkle is introduced - where all the aliens in a single row or column have to be moved together - you realize that this little game is akin to a digital version of the old Ten Billion Barrel puzzle. This means that you can rarely move one alien at a time, a mechanic that forces you to plan ahead and line up sets of aliens to slip into place together.
Fortunately, despite the mental gymnastics Shuttle Shuffle asks you to perform, you will never be stumped by the controls.
Horizontal and vertical movement is controlled by intuitive swipes. On smaller screens this could have created an accuracy issue on larger, zoomed out grids, but Shuttle Shuffle does a good job highlighting which lines are about to be moved before you execute. This enables you to plan moves with ease - though actually solving the puzzles may prove a tad tougher.
Where things first got trick for me was around stage ten. This was the first stage in which the most efficient solution demanded that I move an alien away from its destination to reach its goal. It feels unintuitive but, by slipping out of the direct route, the purple blob was able to bob along in the wake of the other extraterrestrials to more efficiently reach its shuttle.
The visual design of Shuffle Shuttle is inoffensive, but offers little more than static sprites that (on rare occasions) blink. This does have the advantage of making them vivid on screen, with the bold background keeping the whole experience appropriately cartoony, but it isn't the most stimulating experience.
Similarly, the music is rather bland. This failure to evoke any strong feelings is a shame, but it at least benefits from not being actively annoying – which is a larger problem than you may think in many puzzle games.
Shuttle Shuffle is never easy. From the campaign’s earliest puzzles, thought and care is required if you want to achieve a perfect score. Mix with this the Challenge mode (which offer even more difficult puzzles) and the intuitively designed puzzle editor, and you have a game that could confuse even the most avid conundrum chaser for some time into the future.