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Puzzle Dimension

Score: 90%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Steam
Developer: Doctor Entertainment
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Puzzle

Graphics & Sound:

Over the past few years, there have been a few Marble Madness-inspired games. I've had the opportunity to review everything from Ignition's Mercury line to Garage Games' Marble Blast Ultra, and while I've enjoyed them all, none have quite had the same feel as Puzzle Dimension.

One of the more intriguing aspects of the game is its visual style. While the different Clusters, or worlds if you will, have different themes, they are all dazzling to look at, and offer an odd blend of high definition and 8-bit styles. Besides the ball itself, all of the elements on the board stick to a highly blocky and purposefully pixelated look. Well, until you get close to them and then they transform into much clearer representations of their models. The best example of this is the sunflowers you need to pick up in order to complete each level. Until you land your ball on an adjacent tile, they appear bulky and very rough-edged. When you approach though, they transform into a high-rez sunflower model. The same can be said of the tiles and other elements on the board.

The game's background music does a good job of staying out of the way, and while it is never really anything that sticks with you after you've walked away, it still gets the job done. Puzzle Dimension's other sound effects add a nice touch as you roll and bounce your way across various types of tiles, but the game can be played just as well with the speakers turned off... which I guess is a good thing for anyone wanting to play the game on a casual nature. I mean, you wouldn't want to disturb your co-workers or anything.


Gameplay:

As you might expect based on the games I've compared it to, Puzzle Dimension has you rolling and jumping a ball across levels comprised of tiles. In the case of this game, you are trying to collect enough sunflowers to open up a gate, and get through that gate. Let me tell you, there is nothing so frustrating as being able to collect everything you need, and realizing you've painted yourself into a corner and can't actually get to the level's exit.

One of the interesting features of Puzzle Dimension is the amount of freedom it gives you. For the most part, there is no up or down, and as the level curves up and around the screen, it will actually rotate so that the tile you are on are along the bottom. In other words, if you have a level that curves upwards, then you won't find yourself hitting a wall. Instead, when you move onto one of those tiles, the level will rotate round so that the new tile is directly below you. Of course, this doesn't preclude you from making a false move and actually falling off of the level. A misroll off of one side and you will still fall into the level's infinite void.


Difficulty:

Puzzle Dimension doesn't pull any punches. While the game's tutorial and first couple of levels are straightforward and easy, it quickly throws a few curve balls at you and forces you to think in whole new ways. I had to attempt pretty much every puzzle multiple times before actually getting past the seemingly simple arrangements, but since the game throws obstacles like break-away tiles and icy areas at you early on, it is never as simple as simply rolling from one flower to the next. Seeing as the game has a whopping 100 levels to throw at you with a variety of different tiles and obstacles, you can expect the overall experience to be a bit of a brain teaser.

Game Mechanics:

Puzzle Dimension's controls seem simple enough, but they take a little getting used to, and quite frankly, a good 80% of my deaths were a result of the wrong finger hitting the wrong keys.

Everything runs off of the keyboard. The Arrow Keys roll the ball to the next tile, while the Space Bar, in conjunction with the Arrow Keys, lets you hop over one tile in a particular direction. These are the basics, and all you really need to know, but the problem is you will also need to control the camera a bit in order to rotate around and get various views of the world as you roll about. This is done by holding down the Shift Key when using an Arrow Key.

Where my fingers usually got messed up was when I thought I was jumping in a particular direction, typically over a gap in the floor, but instead of using the Space Bar, I held down the Shift. This is, of course, no one's fault but my own, but the constant switching between navigation and camera rotation led to many deaths, and because of the hurried nature of the game, if you want a good score anyway, there were often some frantic finger-swapping going on over those two major keys.

Puzzle Dimension really is a fun experience, and while it might seem like just another marble game, there is enough of a challenge and unique style here to make it worth the while of most puzzle-fans.


-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows 7/Vista/XP SP3, 1.7 GHz Processor, 1GB RAM, DirectX 9.0c (Shader Model 3) compatible graphics card, DriectX 9.0c, 500MB Hard Disk Space
 

Test System:



Windows 7 Ultimate, Intel i7 X980 3.33GHz, 12 GB RAM, Radeon HD 5870 Graphics Card, DirectX 9.0c

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