Overall Score 60%
Imagine a grid of boxes, all different colours. Flat, square gems fall from above onto these boxes. Your task is to choose which boxes these gems fall onto, in order to match columns of one to five of the same colour as the box. Your aim is to score enough points to complete the level and move onto the next. If your box is a different colour to the column of gems, or if you slip another gem colour in there, you lose points. Reach the negative score of that level and you lose the game.
This is the main part of Illumination, a game whose name appears to have nothing to do with it. Match the gems by clicking on which box you want the next gem to land on. Successfully matching a gem collection can change the colour of the box - the rainbow ones are useful as you can match any colour on those - while mismatches can remove the box altogether, which makes things a little harder, though boxes do, er, grow back after a while. Each box has a specific limit of one to five gems, making the longer chains ideal for storing gems you don't want.
There are different modes of play available. Standard mode is much as above. You can also play harder modes with time limits, or puzzle modes (though I completed only three puzzles before I was returned to the menu, which seemed a little thin). Controls are all mouse operated, with the left button used for placing gems and the right mouse button for your special moves. Ah yes, the special moves. I haven't yet mentioned these, scattering a column of gems to the four sides (assuming four neighbours exist) of the box you click on. These moves are limited and I don't really understand what benefits they provide.
Indeed, the playability of Illumination suffers a fair amount by confusing instructions. The basics are available from the menu but they do not go into details about strategy. More advanced tips appear at the start of a game, the exact tip being random and often not particularly helpful. I found no explanation of boxes disappearing or why I managed to complete a timed level by clicking rapidly and randomly about the screen - my score went up and down alarmingly but generally up! This is the opposite of how levels usually go when I think about things!!
Further annoyance comes from the mouse control, which is a little slippery. I've placed gems on the wrong boxes before as selecting them can be tricky - you generally know which box you've selected by looking at the information in the bottom left corner. The game menu is rather strange too - there's a main menu option in the main menu, which deals with sound options and difficulty. You access alternative game modes by clicking on the extras button. It took me a while to realise that you quit the game by closing the entire window, with Windows' own X button in the top right!
So what about the graphics? Marks here are limited, I'm afraid, by such difficulties as similarly coloured gems and the number of gems in stacks. It's sometimes hard to tell the difference between red and purple, or purple and blue, or blue and green. An awful lot of gems are white or grey, and I don't think I've seen any equivalent boxes to put those on, so perhaps those ones are just there to lose me points? The menus look very basic, the instructions have a fairly ugly font and animation effects are minimal.
Sound too is limited. The basic clicks for gem placement are fine, but what about special options, like the one that turns all the blocks into rainbow ones? What about different sounds for successful and unsuccessful matches? The music is also limited, and rather strange in its usage. A pleasant intro piece when the game loaded and I entered the main menu stopped playing after I started a new game - and never returned, even when I finished the game and came back to the menu. The in-game background music is less strong; only one track that repeats after a while. That too seemed to disappear after some navigation about the main menu. Does it only feature on certain game modes?
Illumination is an interesting idea, yet it is rather weakly implemented in many ways and rather limited in scope. There are some fundamental issues with the presentation and the playability which impact heavily on the appeal and longevity of the game and, until these are resolved, Illumination is unlikely to gain major interest.
Keywords: illumination review, digi-rebels reviews, digi-rebels games, illumination scores, pc game reviews, indie game reviews, independent gaming.