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Power Grounds is punishing and playful

review

I love mobile games that present a streamlined way to play while not sacrificing the difficulty or nature of the experience. Power Grounds is a role-playing game that you can control with a single finger, with a roguelike one-death difficulty curve that makes it both punishing and charming at the same time.

The story behind Power Grounds -- which you'll only know if you read the app description, as there is no backstory offered in the game itself -- is that you are trapped in a temple. Monsters lurk around every corner and in order to defeat them you need to activate powered tiles on the floor. The game screen ends up looking a bit like a chess board, but you'll catch on to the game's nuances within minutes of trying it out.

You start each level on one side of the screen and need to navigate to the exit without dying in between. Each time you move from one square to the next on the game's grid-like playfield, the enemies take their turn as well. If you end up right next to an enemy, chances are you're going to take damage from an attack, unless you manage to activate a magical tile first.

Power-ups range from offensive weapons like electricity blasts and sword swings to freeze traps that keep the enemies from moving for a specific number of turns. It's a deceptively simple system that makes you feel totally in control, until you're surrounded by enemies and die in a matter of seconds.

Each grid is randomly generated, which helps to ramp up the replayability, and you can play it as slow or as fast as you desire. Once you best the ramped-up difficulty of the later levels you can try your luck in the Arena mode where you're tasked with surviving as long as possible.

Power Grounds is priced at US$0.99, and there are no in-app purchases or pay-to-win bonuses to be found. It's one of those iOS games that is both accessible and demonically difficult at the same time, which makes it an easy recommendation for anyone who wants a challenge.

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