Saturday, June 03, 2006

Mood Meeps

Name: Mood Meeps
Author: SwainGames
License: Freeware

This week's game is not the greatest logic game, but it does contain an original and interesting idea. It uses finite state machines (FSM for short) as an integral part of the game. A FSM consists of several states and transition rules for moving from one state to another. In Mood Meeps, each character, or meep as they call them, is a FSM. Of course, the game does not use FSM terminology, but I will in describing the game. I found this to be a great idea, but the execution in Mood Meeps is lacking. I still suggest everyone give this one a play. Hopefully, someone will be inspired and figure out how to transform FSMs into a really great logic game.

In Mood Meeps, each meep is a FSM. The states correspond to the "mood" of that character. This chart gives the various states.
StateColorMove Freq
evilblackcan't move

Each turn you move one meep one space up, down, left, or right. The frequency with which you can move a meep depends on its mood. After moving, each meep may change its mood/state based a set of build in transition rules. Here are a couple of transition rules.
  • normal and no neighboring meeps -> lonely
  • normal and not moved for 4 turns -> jealous
  • jealous and not moved for 4 turns -> angry
  • angry and not moved for 4 turns -> evil
  • jealous and moved three times -> normal
  • normal and next to evil for 2 turns -> scared

While not obvious, the transition rules are well-defined and do not depend on the order in which the meeps are considered. A key point to the transition rules is that evil state is a sink. You can never transition away from the evil state. The goal in each level is to eliminate all of the meeps. On each turn, after the transition rules have been applied, any meep next to a meep with the same mood is removed from the board.

There is one more major facet to the game: magnets. On most levels, you have a certain number of magnets which can place placed around the edge of the board. Any moving meep will be pulled towards a magnet in its row or column. If you start a meep towards a magnet, any other meep behind the first one in that row or column will also start moving. This allows you to start a train of meeps moving around the board. If the meeps are lined things up correctly, several meeps in such a train can be removed in the same turn. Between turns, the magnets can be repositioned in any fashion.

There are also portals and money. They do not add much to the game, just a little randomness.

Mood Meeps contains 80 levels. The first 10 or so level are introductory. The remaining levels form the heart of the game. You have complete each level to gain access the next one. Oh, and there are passcodes to keep track of. I am going to be good and not say anything about either of these features of Mood Meeps.

However, there are several things which I did not like and am going to mention. Basically, Mood Meeps is not a lot of fun. I solved many of the levels by performing a completely mechanical search. Since the number of moves needed to compete a level is given, the search space is not all that big. In any case, this is not a good sign for any game.

Another problem is that the number of turns since a meep moved is not displayed, nor is the number of turns until a meep can move. You have to keep track of these critical values in your head. I wish they were displayed. In reality, there are more states in the FSM than listed above. There should really be states called "normal, moved one turn ago", "normal, move two turns ago", and so on.

My next major issue with Mood Meeps is the magnets. What happens when a meep falls under the influence of two magnets? After completing all 80 levels, I still cannot tell for sure. The general rule is that a meep will change direction if possible when it enters the pull of another magnet. The full implications are hard to compute. It is also possible to get meeps going around in circles.

One last annoyance. It can happen that there are no meeps which can move at the current turn. You might want to "pass" and not move anyone this turn, but you cannot. You just lose.

Despite all of complaints, I still suggest you try Mood Meeps or at least the introductory levels. I really like the idea of logic game based around FSMs.


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