Sunday, January 27, 2008


Title: Polarity
Authors: Braham, Bryner, Iwaanowski, Rosenbaum, Shrivostava, Spiro, Theus
License: Freeware

Continuing my series on not quite puzzle/logic games, this week I am going to mention a great albeit very short platform game. Polarity starts out as a typical platform game: run, jump, tap switches, avoid the electrical fields. Usual platform stuff.

The catch is that your character has one of two colors, red or blue, and you attract things of the opposite color and repel objects of the same color. The heart of the game is that you control your color. If there is a blue stretch of ceiling, switch to red, jump and walk on the ceiling. At certain points in the game, you have to switch colors at just the right moment.

At other points in the game, you have to push balls around to activate switches. To push a ball away from you, switch to the same color as the color. To pull it towards you, switch to the opposite color. A little thinking and careful keyboard controls are needed.

The graphics and controls in Polarity are great. The biggest problem is that it is so short. You can easily get through the game in 20 minutes. You will definitely be wanting more. This is a student project, and I certainly hope that they are working on a full length game.

One oddity is that there is no save game. Given how short the game is, it is not a problem.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Puzzle Quest

Title: Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords
Author: Infinite Interactive
License: Commercial

I am going to start 2008 with a series of four or five entries on games which are not quite puzzle or logic games. These games contain some puzzle elements, but really fall into other genres. Several of these games fall into the dreaded (to me) casual game category. For the hardcore, go play DROD for a month.

WARNING: The PC version of Puzzle Quest does not run some computers. A Google search on "0xc0000142 Puzzle Quest" reveals some of the issues. It seems to be a problem with AMD64 processors. At least that is one conjecture in one forum, and was the case for me (0 for 1 on AMD64, 3 for 3 on Intel). I highly suggest that you download and test the demo .

RANT1: I could not find one main stream gaming review which mentioned this problem. You guys are not doing your job!

RANT2: I don't normally read the documentation which comes with a game. But, due to the inability to get Puzzle Quest running on my AMD64 box, I did read the insert. It contained the line "Windows XP/Vista requires that all programs get installed from an account with Administrator rights." That is a flat-out falsehood. I do not understand how game publishers get away with saying these things.

Ok, now on to the game. In a sentence, Puzzle Quest is Bejeweled with D&D style role-playing elements. Battles take the form of a bejeweled game. You swap neighboring items to form three or more in a row. When the swap forms three or more skulls, you damage your opponent reducing his/her life points. When you swap three or more colored coins, you gain mana of that color. Given enough mana of the appropriate types, you can cast spells. Some spells damage your opponent. Some give you some healing. Others effect the board.

In the usual role-playing format, Puzzle Quest consists of a series of quests. Most quests consist of battling some foe or another in one of the bejeweled battles. After completing the quests more of the map opens up and even tougher quests become available.

The battles and quests are only part of the game. Completing quests also gives experience which allows access to new spells and character customization. In other words, leveling up. This is the fun part. Do you put your new skill points into earth or fire magic? Should you buy a troll ring or build a forge? Which spells should you bring into a particular battle. Puzzle Quest is a surprisingly deep game. These choices do matter. With some experience, you will be outfitting your character to effectively battle particular opponents. Ultimately, Puzzle Quest has that addictive "with only 100 more gold, I can buy a ..." feel to it.

There is also a back story, undead in the north or something. It is fun the read the dialogue the first time through. Along the way, you will pick up companions and train mounts. There are some choices to make. Should return the king's daughter for an arranged marriage or set her free? Your choice here has only a small effect on the plot. It is not a branching plot. I am on my third time through with different character types and just skip the dialogue now. So far, I have set the king's daughter free twice and turned her in to get married once.

All end all, a very well thought out and executed game, assuming it will execute on your computer at all. The biggest flaw in the game is that you can only have one character at a time. Creating a new character deletes the old one.