I decided to chill out today and play a game on the PC. Well, ended up playing longer than expected.
The game I tried was Zodiac Tower (Downloaded from Big Fish Games) where I download the game for free. It is great to be able to test a game for an hour before deciding if the game should be bought or not.
I have to admit that I did not buy the game YET but that this will probably change soon. You will see why later in this review.
The game is of course a puzzle game (what else can you chill out with) and when I started the game my first thought was: oh, one more of these click the same connecting color blocks and they disappear. Well, I was wrong :)
The story in the game is that you want to become an astrologer; to do this you have to explore the ancient Zodiac Tower. This is very nice presented by a tower on the screen split up in to many rooms. Sometimes you can only select one level but often you got multiple chooses. You start from the bottom and have to get to the top. The tower is done with very nice graphics so do not expect a square tower with square rooms.
The game is about removing identical pieces from the playing area but the way you do it is different from other games. On the left side of the game you have different shapes, some do remind of Tetris blocks but the game is NOT a Tetris clone. You grab one of the shapes and move it over the playfield and drop it on the pieces there. These pieces will then disappear and the ones above will fall down, normally they fall straight down but not always as there are ‘holes’ in the playfield often with round corners. Some shapes can be dropped on pieces even if they are not all identical. New shapes are been dropped into the shape area all the time but not at a crazy speed. If a shape is not used for a while then it is removed. There is of course a time limit for each level.
The aim for the levels changes from time to time, some levels requires you to remove all the pieces, sometimes you just have to break some special pieces (by removing pieces next to them) bit it can also be a combination. From time to time you will get some hints when you start a level, first I thought it was a tutorial and got annoyed by the fast removing of the text; but the text repeats so nothing to worry about. On some levels there will be special pieces that got special functions. This can be dynamite, bombs, blitz, magnets; these will always helpful items, done with nice visual effects.
When a level is completed you get a status report and from time to time you get a special item; I’m not 100% sure what these does YET. Oh, there is also a shop in the game which you can access between the levels. First it is empty but it is possible to find items which then are shown in the shop. This can be bombs, magnets and I once got a key which should unlock the ‘survival mode’ but I was never able to find that mode!!!
The game is very easy to get to as it starts out very easy (and continues to be easy…). Learning curve is very low and the game does a great job with introduction of new level aims and new special pieces. So anyone can get started with this game without any trouble.
I played the normal mode and completed around 20 levels without getting any stress. Hard mode didn’t seem that much harder but I only played a few levels in it, but it sure did show some new interesting forms of the pieces. I then tried the arcade mode and saw the ‘Hurry up’ message once. I know I wrote I wanted to chill out but I still wanted some challenge in the game.
Window vs Full-screen mode:
The game defaults to full-screen in 800×600 mode. I changed to highest resolution of 1024×768 but had to restart the game to make the change. I later decided to try the window mode; again a restart of the game was needed. To be honest I’m very disappointed about the window mode; I’m used to that you can move the mouse pointer outside of the game window and that the game will enter a pause mode. In Zodiac Tower this is not possible; the mouse stays inside the game window. I then used ALT-TAB to leave the game; this worked but the game was still running; including the music. This is a ‘bad’ design issue in my point of view. People should be able to leave the game easy and do other tasks and then get back and continue.
It is very easy to see that the developers spend time on visual eye candy; sometimes it happens that the programmers try to pimp the game by adding effects because the graphics in the game is bad. This is NOT the case in Zodiac Tower; the graphics are awesome. The tower got MANY rooms and each room got its own background with nice details. All the in game graphics follows the same route; good quality. The user interface also. Of course there is eye candy here also; lots of sparkling effects; never too many and never annoying.
The audio in the game shows that nothing was forgotten when thinking about quality. Sound effects are good and never annoying. Same goes for the background music. I often end up turning down the music in games if it is repeating often or just plain annoying. I didn’t even consider doing that in Zodiac Tower.
My only issue (beyond the window mode) was that the game didn’t offer enough of a challenge to me. When playing 20 levels and not getting stressed or not even having problems with the time limit in the game then I feel that the developers should have tweaked this part more. Then again, the game does feature more than 100 levels. As mentioned before; visuals and audio are top quality which sure helps with making the game more interesting in the long run. I’m sure I will be coming back to this game one of the next days; will then have to buy it as I already used my one hour of the testing time. Knowing how the ‘buying’ system works I know I will be playing the full version of the game within minutes. So I will have a chance to see more of the great graphics and see what happens when more items are unlocked. So I can only recommend this game to anyone who wants a game to chill out with.