Overall Score 58%
A couple of years ago, a friend put me on to a game called Puzzle Quest. It was the first puzzle game that Iíd ever played where the match-3 style of marble popper concept was actually put to use in a deeper meta-game, in this case a classic fantasy RPG. By popping different coloured orbs in the puzzles, you could store up power which could then be unleashed on your enemies as spells during combat. Other puzzles let you acquire new mounts and learn new spells; in fact all manner of character development and game progression depended on the performance in the puzzles. At the time I remember thinking that it was a watershed in terms of taking the genre to new heights, and played the game for hours on end. I honestly thought that it might have been a real shift in the genre, bringing more longevity of play and a little more imagination to the table. I canít say that Iíve enjoyed a simple puzzle game for hours on end since then. Perhaps it just requires a different style of gamer to enjoy solving puzzles for the sake of solving them. I think that I need something to work towards, a goal akin to being able to admire a beautiful jigsaw puzzle after Iíve spent hours working on it. I find that most (almost all) simple abstract puzzle games fail to engage me for more than a half hour or so these days. So, please bear this in mind as I present this weekís review game - Popnus Puzzle.
This game is indeed a simple and abstract puzzler. There are 3 modes of play to enjoy; Puzzle, Survival and Classic. The puzzle mode features 80 hand-crafted puzzles where the player needs to clear all balls (or marbles or orbs or nuts or whatever the things are) from the playfield in order to continue on and unlock the next level. Players can do this by manually clicking and dragging orbs around the puzzle forming groups of three or more in a straight line (Iím sure you all know the drill by now). Once they are happy with the setup, they simply click the Popnus button at the bottom of the screen to clear all aligned balls. Balls that are not aligned to be cleared then fall downwards and may make combos. If you fail to clear a puzzle in a stipulated time limit, or clear the balls in the wrong order, you can simply start the level over again at no penalty. Some puzzles allow multiple or infinite uses of the Popnus button, others allow just one push. Tier 1 puzzles are ridiculously easy, tier 4 puzzles are where I was frustrated enough to give up, and I assume that the difficulty would ramp up to the tier 8 puzzles that from the previews would seem to be quite fiendish indeed. If you are totally stuck on a level and want to continue on regardless, you can use one of the 6 available level skips.
Survival mode is a random selection of balls in one of 6 pre-defined layouts. You play as you would in puzzle mode, with the difference being that cleared balls are replaced indefinitely. Occasionally, a ball will become a bomb, and if this is left for long enough it will explode, decreasing the players life by one. Once 5 lives have been used up, itís game over. Classic mode is essentially the same as survival mode, but instead of bombs and lives, the limiting factor on each level is time or clicks of the Popnus button. If the player can manage to meet a pre-defined target score on each level, they may move on to the next. Essentially, Classic mode is just another form of Survival mode, and a challenge to post your highest score on each level.
So, as far as the gameplay goes, thatís about it folks. If it doesnít sound like youíre going to enjoy the game based on the above description, then Iím willing to wager that the demo wonít stay on your hard drive much longer than the one hour time limit that is imposed. If you do decide to buy the game, registering is very simple and allows you to continue your progress from where you left off in the demo, which is a nice feature. In fact, this is one game where the time limited but fully featured demo is an excellent choice by the developers. Some more deep, complex or involving games tend to frustrate gamers by imposing time limited demos and are better served by limiting features, for example.
By far and away, the best features of this game are the non-gameplay related ones. The graphics are so colourful and cute that it will no doubt appeal to very young children. The sounds and music are equally appealing and overall the presentation of the game is outstanding. Smooth animations, bright and well-drawn background scenes, cute chipmunk styled voices, intuitive menus and options screens and easy mouse driven controls all feature prominently.
Personally, I find it very difficult to recommend Popnus Puzzle because of the extremely simple nature of the gameplay, little to no overall goal to work towards (apart from unlocking the later levels), and the distinct lack of that addictive certain something; an x-factor or hook that keeps drawing me back to the game. After around 90 minutes of play for testing purposes I sincerely doubt that will go back to it. Even for hard core puzzle-nuts, the game really doesnít offer much in terms in innovation or even a conceptual originality. Youíve pretty much seen everything that this game has to offer in numerous previously released titles. Only the most casual of casual gamers might want to download the demo and check the appeal for themselves.
Keywords: popnus puzzle review, happy nutz studio reviews, happy nutz studio games, popnus puzzle scores, pc game reviews, indie game reviews, independent gaming.