Sunday, June 07, 2009

Cluster

Title: Cluster
Author: Edgar "Fast Eddie" Williams
License: Freeware (donation requested)
Website: http://fasteddiessoftware.com/videogames.aspx

Cluster is a simple puzzle game which you might think you have played before, but you haven't. I am not sure where I first ran across Cluster. But I do remember that I almost went right past it thinking it was another sokoban game. Luckily I didn't.

So what is Cluster? Like sokoban, from a top down view, you push crates around with a bulldozer. That is where the similarities end. The objective is not to push crates to certain positions. Instead, you need to push the crates so that they form one (orthogonally connected) cluster.

The other big difference is that once two or more blocks become connected, they stay connected and have to be pushed around as group. This can be a hindrance as the larger group is more awkward. On the other hand, this can be useful. For example, you can attach additional blocks to a block "stuck" along a wall which form a handle and allow you to push the group away from the wall. Learning to use groups in this way to save "stuck" blocks is really the key to solving Cluster levels.



As with any puzzle game, there are a couple of twists. There is a special block type which cannot be moved at all, but must still be part of the final cluster. Nor can any group connect to such a block be moved. There are also special blocks which can only more vertically, and another type which can only move horizontally. Groups containing such a block can only move in that direction. A group containing both a vertical only and a horizontal only cannot move. The final twist is the oil slicks. You cannot move your dozer through a oil slick, but you can move blocks through them.

Cluster contains 25 levels which can be played in any order. The puzzles are hard. No causal gaming here. Even the first "Getting Started" level requires some thinking. There is a level editor for more. The biggest flaw in Cluster is that the game does not record your progress.

If you enjoy Cluster, I would suggest you give Chocolate Castle a look. It has similar mechanics of combining blocks into one group and was my game of the year for 2007.

1 Comments:

At 12:13 PM, Blogger Fast Eddie's Software said...

Hello Jimmy, Fast Eddie here (author of Cluster). Thank you so much for your post. I've been writing games as a hobby for a while now, but just started publishing them this year. It is great to hear that people are finding and enjoying my games.

You are right about Cluster having its roots in Sokoban (even though it is , as you say, quite a different game). I originally got the idea for Cluster while playing Sokoban. Sokoban is a great game, so of course it inspires lots of 'what if' scenarios.

I wanted to let people know that in addition to the 25 'standard' levels in the game, there are another 25 included in the download. When you select 'new game', just select 'custom' and then 'more levels' for another 25 levels. Yes, in retrospect I should have made getting to the additional levels more intuitive (after all, it shouldn't be a puzzle to figure out how to get to all the puzzles!).

I'm hoping to create some more levels for cluster and post them on my site. It's just a matter of finding the time. I've got some other games on the site as well. They are all freeware, so go ahead and check them out.

I've got quite a few new games in progress too, one of which is 'Cluster II: Even More Clustered'. I plan on making the 'playfield' bigger, updating the graphics, and adding a few new gameplay elements. A friend of mine I play cards with tried Cluster and had some really great suggestions, and I've got a few ideas as well.

Thanks again Jimmy. Now that I've found your blog (through your post about Cluster of course), I'll have to check out some of the other games you've posted about. Looks like you may have found some real jems.

Take Care,

Ed 'Fast Eddie' Williams

 

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