Saturday, July 08, 2006

Drops of Light

Name: Drops of Light
Author: Ky Kimport
License: Freeware

I am reviewing a slightly older game this week. I first played Drops of Light four years ago or so and recently returned to it. I am glad I did. It is a simple, fun, slightly unusual puzzler and well worth playing.

Drops of Light is played on the points and intersections of a six-sided star. In each level, there is a starting configuration and ending configuration. Your goal is figure out how to transform one into the other within a certain number of moves. To do this, you move photons from one node to the next. In making such moves, you can combine two photons into one if they contain no primary colors in common. When combining photons, the usual laws of optics apply. For example, blue plus red makes purple.

There is another type of possible move. You can split a photon into its constituent primary colors. Each of these constituent photons can be placed at a neighboring node or in the original node. This ability to combine and split colors allows you move one photon through another, and maybe pick up or drop off a color along the way. The heart of the game is determining the most efficient way to combine and split photons.

There is a limit on how many moves you can make. Each level comes with an energy limit. It costs one unit of energy to move a photon from one node to another. It costs two or three units of energy to split up a photon containing two or three constituent primary colors. You have to plan carefully how to use your allowed energy on a level. Some levels can be solved without using all of the energy, see the Hall of Fame.

Drops of Light comes with 119 levels spread across 8 level sets. The quality and pacing of the levels is pretty good. Some of the later ones are quite challenging.

Now for my complaints. First, you have to complete the levels in order, and there are passwords to write down. This is mitigated by the fact that there are 8 level sets. If you stuck on one set, you can move onto the next. Also, passwords for the "classic" level set are available on the website. My second complaint is that the graph of nodes on which game is played never varies. Drops of Light would be greatly improved if level designers could use a graph of their choosing adding a little variety.


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