Sunday, June 24, 2007

Marble Match

Title: Marble Match
Author: ToastSoft
License: Freeware

Marble Match is a little old, maybe two years, but still fun. It has simple graphics and simple audio, but still fun. The goal of each level is to remove all of the marbles by "matching" similar colored marbles in rows of three or more. You move balls until they hit a wall or another ball, the usual thing. The interesting twist is that you can only move a marble which is adjacent to your character. This adds some complexity to the mix. You have to plan ahead to gain access to various parts of the board.

Marble Match includes several special objects: teleporters, one-way arrows, teleports. There are water tiles which marbles can pass through, but your character cannot. Marbles get stuck on the sand tiles. All usual stuff, you will pick it up quickly.

Some levels contain monsters. They move one space everytime you move. If one type of monster catches up to you, death. There is another type which kills if you get within its line of sight. Of course, there are arrows which you can use to kill monsters. I have to say, I did not like the levels with monsters. I just worked through them to get to the next level.

Another twist is that there is a move limit. You have to complete the level in certain number of marble moves. There are three difficulty levels. In the normal mode, the move limit is rarely a factor. In the hard mode, there are limit is reduced and marbles cannot move diagonally. This limit can be a factor. In Maniac mode, they add a time limit.

Marble Match comes with 100 levels. You have to complete the levels sequentially, but a little hex editing magic of mm_level you can get around this. A level editor is included. The pacing of the levels is not great, but there are some tough ones.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Two Physics-Puzzle Demos

Title: P.H.L.O.P.
Author: B. Kircher, C. Lyon, T. Nguyen
License: Freeware

Title: Crayon Physics
Author: Petri Purho
License: Freeware

This week, I am going to review two physics based puzzle games. Both are are concept/demo games. The first, PHLOP, is a DigiPen project. DigiPen is a school for games programmers located in the Seattle area. Every year, various student projects are released as freeware. Here are the 2006-2007 projects.

I have never been impressed with the DigiPen games. They are always oddly incomplete and buggy. There are some interesting ideas in these games, but they are never polished. I am often left wondering, "did they even play test this themselves?" Of course, I am sure that every history professor reading senior theses thinks something similar.

PHLOP is the first DigiPen game that impressed me. It was clearly inspired by Armadillo Run. At first, I almost dismissed it as a clone, but PHLOP contains some interesting new features. As in Armadillo Run, the goal is to use various struts and platforms to get the balls to the goal area. Two fun new features are gravity switches and magnets. When a ball hits a gravity switch, the direction of gravity changes, the screen rotates, and the ball starts falling in new direction. This is a great idea.

PHLOP has 40 levels, and any level can be accessed at any time. It has good graphics and audio. The physics model is decent, but not as good a Armadillo Run. As with other DigiPen games, there are missing elements. One is that it does not record which levels you have completed. The interface is quirky. Then there are little things like help screens that say "Todo: any help here". Given these omissions, I cannot fully endorse PHLOP. Still it is fun.

The other game is Crayon Physics. It is a "done-in-under-a-week game" so some leeway has to be given. The objective is to force the ball to each of the stars. To do this you draw boxes on the screen. Once completed, they fall. As they fall, the boxes push things about. On this this level, I used the blue box to push the ball next to the pillar. Next, using other boxes, the pillar can be tripped over the ball. Then pushing the ball to the star is easy.

The physics model is very good, and the crayon graphics are great. There are only seven levels which can be completed in any order. Crayon Physics is fun while it lasts. I wish there was a level editor.