Overall Score 80%
Traffic Jammer Deluxe
Traffic Jammer Deluxe follows in the tradition of 'guide the flow with arrows' type games. In this case, a series of cars of different colours emit from one area and are guided to the correct exit by placing arrows of the appropriate colour in the right places. Unless you play in the hectic arcade mode, the arrows are placed at the start of each level and not as the cars are moving. This makes Traffic Jammer Deluxe more thoughtful and sedate than the real time variants of this idea such as 3D Magnetic Marbles.
The graphics are all top quality bitmaps. 3D objects wobble and pulse in the background to accompany the jazzy music in the background. You can play the game in a window or in full screen too, although in full screen my display flickered badly at a headache inducing rate which rapidly persuaded me to select the window option. You can choose between OpenGL or DirectX graphics systems, which is nice for those who have problems with one option or the other, and know what that even means.
Many of the graphics pulse in and out in a happy dance. The icons and displays are very large and clear. Most of the front end icons are text based which is great for those who speak English, and the cartoonish look of the game is every bit as professional as a modern full price title. The look of Traffic Jammer Deluxe reminded me of the later incarnations of Team 17's Worms.
The sound is good quality. The cheery music is nice but rapidly becomes annoying, and the music volume setting didn't work for me so I had to listen to the music or mute all sound. The sound effects present are nice and functional but don't excel. There are no expected car noises for example, just the odd confirmational ping.
Playing the main game consists of placing arrows at various traffic junctions, then clicking go and seeing what happens. Playing Traffic Jammer feels a little like filling in a crossword puzzle. A lot of thought is involved, and lots of trial and error too. There is not much innovation here, you just get a few different coloured arrows. This is good in some respects because it makes the game easy to understand, but I feel it would have improved the gameplay somewhat to gradually introduce more variety to the thought processes.
As the levels ramp up in terms of difficulty one quickly realises that simple does not mean easy, but playing each level is a very similar experience that can become boring. A typical steady ascent in difficulty via a choice of levels is offered. I would have preferred the ability to play any level because the incentive and reward in these sort of games is to complete a level, not complete the game. The hints on offer require you to play the level many times before a solution is visible which I also found a little annoying.
There is also an arcade mode. In that, lines of cars appear from many different entrances and these which must be guided with arrows placed down as they move. The arrow keys on the keyboard are used in an unintuitive, but learnable, way because the left and right arrow keys will rotate the on screen arrow and up and down will cycle the type of arrow. I did not find the arcade mode particularly attractive to play, the lack of depth and requirement for reactions compared to the main game makes it a very different experience. I feel that the arcade mode is unlikely to attract game players who would not like thoughtful puzzle games, and perhaps remain unplayed by those who do, so perhaps this game mode should be treated as a free bonus.
There are lots of levels here and hours of playability. If a level was a crossword puzzle, then the whole game would be a bumper book chock full of quizzes. One of the best level editors I've seen is also built into the program, and players can save and exchange levels between themselves. Even more levels can be downloaded from the Crystal Squid website too, giving fans of this game lots of play time.
Traffic Jammer Deluxe offers about the same high level of playability as any of these sort of games, with top quality presentation. There are not many innovations here, and there are a lot of games in the thought versus reactions crowd, but this game is up there among the best in its class.
Readers might like to try the free-to-play online browser version of Traffic Jammer, that uses Java 1.1.
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