Friday, March 10, 2006

Rant: A Trio of Pans

I normally only write about games which I have enjoyed playing. However, this week I am going to give short reviews of three games which I would suggest you steer clear of. These three games are not the kind of crappy games which are easy to spot. At first, each looked like a good game. Only after investing some time and for two of them twenty dollars, did I realize their failings.

Essence Child

Essence Child is a simple freeware puzzle game. The goal is to move each of the three balls, colored red, blue, and green, to the proper hole. Along the way you have hit switches which toggle certain walls and find keys to open locked doors. Instead of doing a normal top down view, they went with a isometric view. I guess they thought this was fancier. The problem is that the isometric walls can hide switches and keys. On one level, I had to exhaustively search the maze to find a key. On another level, I had to guess that there was an item hidden behind a toggleable wall. In the level pictured, there is a key in square surrounded by green walls and another in the square surrounded by the red walls. Can you see either? They let the graphics get in the way of the game play. Also the levels are incredibly easy. I kept waiting for them to get harder, but they never did. Don't waste your time on this one.


At first, Cubology seemed like a great game. It has gotten some great reviews. You have to move cubes around subject to certain restrictions. The goal is to remove all of the cubes from the field. Three or more similarly colored cubes of one type when moved next to one another blow up and disappear. Other cube types have different rules. The major problem here is the controls. Using the mouse, it is very easy to move a cube in the wrong direction. Add to this the fact that some levels have a limit on the number of move which you can make. Then toss in a time limit, and you have a recipe for frustration. The really sad thing about Cubology is that the level design is really good. It just isn't worth it though. Don't waste your money on this one.

Crazy Machines

Crazy Machines is a remake of one of my favorite games of all time: The Incredible Machine. I was so stoked when I ordered it. Maybe my expectations were too high, but this game was very disappointing. Sure, the physics model in CM is better than that of TiM, and it has better graphics. But, that is where the betters end. The first problem is that the goal for many levels is hard to decipher from the dialogue box shown at the start of a level. Next, the solutions often require pixel accuracy. Above is the solution to level 4. You have to get the tennis ball in the metal bucket. You might think to use the magnet to pull the bucket over slightly to the left allowing the ball access. After wasting some time on that logical solution, you might try to use the curved part of the magnet to direct the ball into bucket. This will work, but if you move that magnet one or two pixels in any direction, it won't work. Also, the pacing of the levels is heinous. After completing 20 some odd normal levels, there is a set of tutorial levels. Don't waste your sanity on this one.

Side Rant: all game designers who think is a good idea to force players to complete level i before allowing them access to level i+1 should be required to get to level 5 of Crazy Machines.

I will be back next week with a good game for you to play.


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