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17:2830/01/2011Posted by Chris MorellOne Comment

Produced by rising development team, Bit Barons, Astroslugs introduces PC and Mac gamers to a world of simple but surprisingly challenging puzzles. As with any good puzzler worth its salt, the game has been designed with a clear emphasis on accessibility, providing the pick-up-and-play mechanics needed to attract the broad audience that complex games try, and so often fail to pull in. With a unique sense of identity and a colourful presentation, Astroslugs is quite an eye-catching title – but does it leave a trail worth sticking to, or will it just leave you feeling slimed?

Slug fans will be disappointed (if indeed such people exist) as the little creatures are noticeably absent for the duration of the game, so if you anticipated seeing them float around space shooting laser beams then you really are out of luck– you’re really only reminded of their existence through some introductory animations and artwork. This game is all about solving a series of puzzles to collect enough energy to power a stranded spacecraft; the harder the puzzle completed, the greater the energy awarded (a puzzle with a +4 will generally be harder than one with a +3, for example). As an extra reward, you’re treated to a compliment such as ‘awesome’ once a puzzle has been cracked.

Each puzzle consists of a varying number of balls which essentially act as tiles to be worked on. Using the mouse, your task is to create a series of shapes between these balls in order to fill the board; it’s all colour-coded and the interface is extremely easy to use, more so than it is to explain here. The tutorial for the first stage does a great job of familiarising players with the patterns, and what can and can’t be accomplished with each. The diamond, for example, can be interwoven with other patterns such as another diamond or a pair of diagonal blobs. It’s very easy stuff to get the hang of, but there is no deeper complexity here.

The game starts out easily enough; in fact it might feel like the puzzles are solving themselves on occasion. It won’t be long before the difficulty begins to escalate however, resulting in some stiff challenges likely to have you sat staring at the screen for extended periods in utter bemusement. Sometimes even a supposedly tough puzzle can be solved in the space of a minute or two, but there will be moments when you’ll feel like you’ve tried every possible wrong move. Worth mentioning is the fact that Astroslugs allows you to progress at your own pace – there’s no timer at all, so feel free to leave a puzzle running for a bit if you fancy a break.

Although the game doesn’t force a rushed hand with a timer, it also lacks any real incentive to return due to the omission of rewards or a scoring system. Completing a puzzle in a certain time for slug-inspired medals could have offered at least some form of replay value, in turn providing a degree of longevity. The game is still enjoyable enough, but with a price at just under ten notes, that little extra effort would have gone a long way. There is a risk of feeling short-changed here.

Astroslugs is colourful, basic, peaceful and frustrating all at once. Puzzle-fiends will lap up some of the more devious mind-taxers presented here, plus the simplicity makes it accessible to all ages, but if you’re a gamer who tires of a puzzle formula quickly then this may not be for you. It’s not nearly as addictive as other games in the genre, resulting in a title that fails to deliver a truly worthwhile experience. Astroslugs is a cute, playable, but sadly forgettable game.

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One Comment »

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