Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Until Enigma, I'd never encountered a real-time logic-puzzle game.* It's crazy. You want adjectives? Brilliant, frustrating, tedious, difficult, devious, intricate... how's that? You'd really have to play the game to have an opinion on how well I did at adjectivizing it, but I don't mind if you pre-judge.

You're a marble. This marble responds to the movement of the mouse. The goal of the each level is to unlock pairs of colored blocks by hitting them. But you have to hit each block of the same color consecutively; if you hit, say a red block, and then hit a purple block, it un-hits (neologism or illiteracy on my part?) the red block. The colors of the blocks, and sometimes their positions, are randomly determined, so experience counts for naught.

Logic and skill count for everything. This game is really hard to explain. Some blocks can only be reached or unlocked by moving other blocks. The only way to interact with any block is to ram it with your marble (vaguely sexual there; probably only because it's been way too long). Since you rebound from blocks at high speed, and there are pieces of terrain that will kill you if you touch them, this gets dicey awfully quick.

That's the basics. The intricacies would require tons more text than anyone would be willing to read - the tutorial is 65 levels long, for god's sake. Necessarily so. After you get through the tutorial - which is no walk in the park - there are a bunch of additional level packs, adding up to hours n' hours of addictively frustrating... fun? It's all relative. The more you want to punch your monitor, the more satisfying actually completing the level is, so in an odd way, the more you hate this game, the more fun it is.

Graphically, it's a tile-based game with decently res'd tiles, so it's not super impressive, or even impressive, but it's totally adequate, in a pretty way. I guess what I'm trying to say is that it's aesthetically great, but not technologically advanced. The marble is a wonder of physics, which the graphics display perfectly, but the tiles themselves wouldn't wow you in '99, much less '08.

The sound isn't worth mentioning. Almost all you'll hear is a glass-break indicating you killed yourself, and a rebounding sound indicating you hit something. It doesn't really matter.

These levels were designed by sadistic geniuses. Honestly, there were levels that I had issues with due to personal skill at manipulating a mouse (don't laugh 'till you've tried), and levels I had issues with because figuring out what to do that would make the level solvable was hard. With such a simple concept, that's impressive. I mean, all you need to know, from a user-input point of view, is 'move the mouse, the ball moves' - and they constructed such nefarious labyrinths of interactivity that I couldn't figure out how to make it work.

I'm getting tired of mentioning that logic-puzzles aren't my cup of tea. Partially because I've said it a lot, and partially because I'm starting to feel very inadequate. This is a brilliant game, if it's your kind of thing.

The controls are responsive, the graphics are nice, and the level design - which is all important in this type of game - is straight-up great. Even though it was the most frustrating thing I've played in a while, in a genre of game I don't consider myself a fan of, I'll still be going back to it. If you dig logic puzzles, and don't mind a game that also tests your dexterity, I heartily recommend it. (note: the tutorial levels don't necessarily serve as logic-puzzles; play the regular level packs to see what I mean).

*I feel certain that I have, but I can't think of one right now. Regardless, this one stands out so much that I can't have encountered one this intense.

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