Spring Up Harmony
Puzzle games fall into several loose genres. It's a pivotal game that does something entirely new and leads to a whole genre being named after it: games like Tetris, for instance, or Breakout... or the inspiration for this week's game - Peggle. This is Spring Up Harmony, another puzzle game in which your aim is to collect key items by shooting them with a ballistic cannon. Though, to be fair, there's a little more to it than that. In addition to shooting them, you need to catch them.
Spring Up Harmony is a fusion of several game styles into one casual release. Use your mouse to aim your cannon and move your bucket - fire with the left mouse button and catch all the objects that fall as a result. One neat twist here is the Bust-a-move style colours - fire a green ball to knock out green objects, a blue ball for blue objects, and so on. Use the wrong colour ball and it'll just harmlessly bounce off. If the current colour is no use to you, you can switch it with the next colour with the right mouse button. And did I mention you're up against a time limit?
Your primary goal is the collection of seven "harmony" objects, clearly identified with lots of sparkles. Collecting other items will give you bonus points. Along with a riot of primary shapes such as oblongs, triangles and circles, there are some special items in the mix, such as boxes, switches, barriers and more besides. Beware the black holes that will suck objects in! Occasionally a shot will produce a power-up, which can be a mix of good and bad things. You have as many shots as you need, but there is a time limit - and you can't fire again until the first shot has finished. You score bonus points for speed, accuracy, cascades and so on. There's no real penalty for missing items when they fall, even the harmony items, aside from your score. Run out of time, however, and you've failed the level.
The graphics are a riot of particle effects. Shapes leave trails as they burn across the screen - trails of shapes befitting their colour, so green shapes for instance leave clovers evaporating in their wake while yellow shapes strew the screen with fast-fading flowers. Occasionally this can obscure the important stuff! The screen is perhaps a little too bright at times, with all the colours and effects making it harder, not easier, to see what is going on. I also took some time to locate the timer and didn't fathom out that the word "HARMONY" down the side relates each letter to one of the seven harmony objects for a little while! Overall, however, the graphics are excellent - perhaps just occasionally a little too over the top.
Three chill-out background tracks accompany Spring Up Harmony, and are included in the installation directory as WMA files if you want to put them on your music player. A small range of sound effects accompanies the game too, including the snick of colliding snooker balls, the odd explosion and the clank of shapes falling into your bucket. Both sound effects and music can be individually adjusted in the options.
I took a little while to get the hang of it, but after a little practice I have become fairly adept at shooting those blocks. I catch the falling pieces half the time, too. One nice touch is that you score points for catching your cannon ball, too. I found the bucket controls a little sticky at first, and the bucket's high walls mean I often end up whacking shapes off the screen rather than collecting them. Oops. The bad powerups include one that reverses your bucket direction for several seconds, and this renders my steering even worse, so try to avoid those. The game has a simple concept behind it and is well put together.
There is an online high score table and ranking system - can you do better than other players? - and a range of trophies to collect for tasks as simple as the Beginner trophy (for completing the first level) to such challenges as scoring over 200,000 points on one level. Some are downright mean - finish a level with less than ten seconds for one trophy! There aren't too many trophies to collect, and the conditions to win them are displayed when you move the mouse over them, all of which is good news for my borderline OCD. Levels can be replayed for a better score and can be attempted in any order.
Spring Up Harmony is generally a well polished game with plenty of care taken with it, but I did spot a couple of issues. My first load stuttered a little - it may have been trying to get online, or it may have been fighting other programs for resources. The graphics make this game processor-hungry, though I didn't notice any real slow down in the game play. More irritating was my experience with the bucket powerups - when my "big bucket" powerup wore off, my bucket shrank by half... and the items I'd caught in the right hand side fell away into the void. Grrr!
This is a well crafted game with a simple concept and gallons of polish. Well done Frozax!
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