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Plith

Published by Ya2
Price $3.99
Download
Primary Genre Secondary Genre

Long ago, men created mechanical devices called orreries, tracing the motion of the planets through a set of gears and clockwork. These days, we know that gravity is what keeps the planets in their orbits, not enormous gears. Or do we? The ancient Mayans apparently knew better - it was they that constructed the enormous golden cogwheel that turns the Earth, and they knew that it would wear out one day, somewhere in 2012. That day now approaches. It is up to the spaceship Plith Enterprise to repair the damage before the Earth stops turning and the planet is destroyed.

Your robotic pal, here to talk you through the basics and introduce new obstacles. A fairly early level, introducing a new size of gear. You need to connect the green gear to the red one.

This is where you come in. Your task is to repair the linkages for this giant planetary mechanism by putting sets of cogwheels onto a series of puzzle boards, linking the turning green cog to the stopped red cog. A successful chain of cogwheels from green to red will solve the puzzle. Things are complicated by the limited bearings available, three sizes of cog and a limited stock of explosives to remove misplaced cogs and, if your cogs get snarled up with each other, you'll have to remove the dodgy links quickly before the green cog gets broken.

Plith is played entirely by mouse. Use the left button to place the next object, and use the right mouse button to switch between cogs and explosives. Remember, you only have five of these - so use them carefully! Cogs come in three sizes - large, medium and small. Place these correctly for the gears to mesh. The tutorial levels at the start of the run explain how these work, but things can get complicated quickly when all three are in play at once. As the next cog to be placed is random, the challenge is figuring out where to put them.

Misplaced gears? Use your limited bombs to remove them. This gearbox is a bit more complicated.

The 3D rendered graphics are actually fairly basic and the artwork in the opening sequence gave the appearance of being programmer art rather than professional. At one point in the intro, part of the word "Aquarius" is visible in the background, spelt with a C! The graphics are perhaps one of the weaker areas of the game, with gears often not meshing properly and explosions not quite fitting in. A range of subtle background tracks accompany play, though sound effects are understandably limited - however, I do think more could be done in this area.

Still, it's playability that matters, right? I'm afraid this too is an area that is somewhat lacking. The basic concept is simple enough - perhaps too simple? - but the controls are sticky and it isn't always clear when placing cogs exactly what they will mesh with. On a few occasions a cog could not be placed until I moved the mouse away and back again. Larger cogs can only be blown up if you drop explosives on their centres - dropping explosives elsewhere merely wastes them. These are all fairly minor quibbles, I admit, but they add another layer of frustration to those caused by the gameplay's wrapping. It didn't even add a desktop icon when installed.

The demo version of Plith contains the first thirty levels. It was probably not worth me asking for a review copy, as I'm stuck on level 24. I simply cannot figure out a solution, and after numerous attempts it became clear to me that the cogs I've been given are random each time. Whether they simply arrive in random order or are completely random, I don't know. If the latter, this level may be impossible unless I get lucky. There are no hints or solutions on offer, and progression is strictly linear - if you get stuck on a puzzle, you can't play a different one instead. This makes the starsign concept seem particularly pointless - there's room here to divide the levels up into sets and let the player attempt more than one at a time.

Players who enjoy achievements and trophies will also be disappointed. There are none. Levels have no time limits, but there's also no means to replay them or try to beat your previous time (which I don't think is even recorded). There are also wasted possibilities here for efficiency (can you do this with fewer cogs?). As it is, all you've got to look forward to when beating a puzzle is the next puzzle. New gameplay features may appear in later levels, but I have no way to know.

There's an interesting concept here that could, with further efforts, be turned into a good puzzler. As it stands, however, the gameplay needs work and the presentation is average at best. The first purpose of a game is to entertain, and Plith doesn't quite manage to do that.

Graphics 70%
Sound 75%
Playability 70%
Longevity 50%
Overall Score 68%
Bronze Star

Published on 05 Oct 2012
Reviewed by Andrew Williams

Keywords: plith review, ya2 reviews, ya2 games, plith scores, pc game reviews, indie game reviews, independent gaming.

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