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Obulis

Score: 89%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Meridian4
Developer: IonFX
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Puzzle

Graphics & Sound:

Obulis, a new addictive puzzle game from IonFX and Meridian 4, takes a simple idea and makes it a lot of fun. The objective is to get the colored orbs into their matching colored pots. In a game with such a singular design, it becomes very important to mix good graphics and sound to keep the player interested. Obulis does both extremely well. The settings are carefully designed to be both aesthetically appealing and dynamically challenging. The orbs themselves are shiny, metallic and beautifully rendered. All of the motion seems very fluid with no noticeable hiccups. Adding to the stunning graphics is a fantastic soundtrack, both of thematic music based upon the locale and, equally as important, outstanding sound effects. From the sound of running water on some levels to the metallic click of the orbs as they strike one another, all of the sounds are meticulously and carefully designed to further absorb the player into the game.

Gameplay:

The premise behind Obulis may be simple, but the fun lies in figuring out how to get those shiny orbs into their pots. Some of the levels are deceptively simple, so much so that some players may try to over-think them, while others are decidedly difficult and require a lot of skill (and a little luck) to get past. Players have no control over the objects in the game. Instead, the only ability the player has is the breaking of chains that are holding the objects, allowing physics and the laws of motion to do the rest. While Obulis is visually fun to watch, as is the case with many good puzzle games, much of the game takes place in the player's mind, since predicting the physical path of objects and calculating precise release points is about all of the control one can exert.

The game includes 151 levels spread across three chapters. The difficulty increases slightly as you progress through the chapters, but each level has its own difficulty rating, and it jumps around quite a bit regardless of where on the map you may be. Progressing through the chapters is accomplished by following paths, much like a board game, and conquering the levels. Each level defeated awards the player with a set number of gold stars, depending on the difficulty of said level. The usefulness of these stars, other than as a collector's item, eluded me. Each chapter contains two amulets and three "master" levels. Collecting the amulets is apparently the ultimate goal, as once you have collected all six, the game ends. However, the player can still go back and finish any levels that were skipped, and levels can be replayed at any time, although once a level is beaten, there is not much in the way of replay value. Beating the "master" levels in each chapter opens up some locked levels, which when beaten, award the player with achievements. Again, the purpose of these (outside of the Steam environment) also confused me, as there is no place to actually view these achievements in the game, thus removing some of the sense of accomplishment.


Difficulty:

Difficulty in Obulis is very subjective. Players with extremely good hand/eye coordination will find some of the areas far easier than those casual gamers who aren't as comfortable with the need for quick movements along with split-second timing. There are times in the game where the player needs to quickly release one chain, drop down, select another, release it, and repeat this several times. Miss one such release, which is easy to do with a mouse, and you've lost the level. Thankfully, restarting a level is extremely easy, so the pains of not getting the timing just right are short-lived. There are a few levels which require an extraordinary amount of luck to defeat. On one level in particular, after numerous replays trying to get the timing just right so that an orb I dropped from the ceiling would fall perfectly into the path of another orb shot from a cannon and cause it to deflect along another vector, a bad bounce caused the deflected orb to get stuck, and I had to reset again, causing a good bit of anxiety. Again, these moments are blessedly uncommon. One oddity that did bother me a bit was the lack of instructions or in-game help. While the game is not hard to figure out and there are some intermittent screens which show you how to use new objects such as catapults and cannons, the absence of instructions did seem a bit shortsighted. All of these issues aside, my only real complaint with Obulis is that, even with 151 levels, the game was fairly easy to beat and there is no real replay value.

Game Mechanics:

From a mechanics standpoint, it does not get much simpler than Obulis. As previously mentioned, the only control the player has is the "breaking" of chains or wires, causing objects to drop, swing or operate, depending on the situation. While simple in design, timing is everything. Figuring out which path an object will take, when to drop an object to cause another object to change directions or where the hidden paths may lie are all part of the fun of this game. There are some times where sheer luck seems to be the only answer, and those levels can be a bit annoying, but thankfully those times are few and far between. For the most part, the physics engine seems sound, with motion and movement behaving as you, the observer, thinks it should. Obulis is a great example of how sometimes, simple is really better. The $9.99 price tag on Steam ($19.99 from IonFX) may be a little steep for a game which does not offer more replay, but you could do far worse for the money.

-The Mung Bard, GameVortex Communications
AKA Buddy Ethridge

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows 2000/XP/Vista, 1.0 GHz Processor, 128 MB RAM, DirectX Compatible 64 MB Graphics Card, 50 MB of Available Hard Disk Space, DirectX Compatible Audio Card
 

Test System:



OS: XP, Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo CPU 3.06 GHz, Memory: 3.35 GB of RAM, Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTS 512

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