Thursday, October 09, 2008

Marble Seals

Title: Ohajiki Azarashi (aka Marble Seals)
Author: Anahara Masataka
License: Freeware

About a year ago, I wrote an entry on Crocodile Garden, a good puzzler with simple rules and tough puzzles. At the time, I added two other games from Anahara Masataka to my personal to-play-list. A couple of weeks ago, Crocodile Garden and the other two appeared in the new games list on Caiman Free Games. This pushed me play one of the others, Marble Seals.

I really like Masataka's games. They have simple rule sets, often thoughtful variants of standard puzzles. The key is the good puzzles. This holds for Marble Seals. At first glace, it is just sokoban clone: push a seal to each target circle. However, it adds a few twists which result in a fundamentally different games.

Twist #1: the surface is slippery: ice or maybe marble. Once pushed, a seal slides along until it hits a wall, another seal, falls off the board, or hits a door.

Twist #2: you cannot push seal if the next square is occupied. However, similar to Newton's cradle, when a seal is pushed into a row of seals, the pushed seal stops and last seal in row pops out and keeps moving.

Twist #3: doors. There are 2 by 1 doors which can be pushed open. These can be used to access other areas and form bridges. If there is a seal on the other side on the door, instead of opening the door pushes that seal.

The interface is simple, arrow keys to move and space bar to push a seal. One difference with Marble Seals versus most sokoban like games is not all of the seals are need to arrive at a target square. You can and have to on some levels sacrifice some seals.

Marble Seals comes with 40 levels. The level construction is very well done with many good aha moments. As levels are completed, additional levels become available allowing some tough levels to be skipped. Some levels are tough, but usually a bit of thought will lead you to a solution.

Marble Seals does have some stability issues. It crashed every time I switched users or resumed Windows. Also, an undo feature would dramatically improve the game. Those are the only serious minuses. Some might be put off by the simple graphics, but they are effective do not get in the way. The audio is also simple. The key here is the good puzzles and it's free. There is no reason to skip this one.


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