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Score: 66%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: ApGames
Developer: ApGames
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Puzzle

Graphics & Sound:

Caelum is a Peggle-clone that tries out a few different ideas, and while those differences are interesting, it just doesn't compare to the hit puzzle game that continues to garnish attention, even a couple of years after its release.

Caelum displays a series of gameboards with a space theme. Your ball-launcher takes the appearance of a space-ship blaster, while the orbs look like your science-class representation of electrons, neutrons and protons. The board's background itself never seems to change (okay, they do change, but it is always some colorful nebula cloud, nothing too distinctive) and neither does the frame around the board. Overall, a lack of variety in the screen that you will see the most of is one of the reasons why the game quickly loses its novelty.

Between levels, a bit of text is displayed, which is supposed to be the blog of the robot piloting the space ship you are on, but the fact that this screen never changes and you see the same static images every time just adds to the overall humdrum feel.

Music continues that theme as there are only a few different background songs and only a couple of sound effects for when your ball hits an orb. These issues would only be slightly annoying if the same lack of variety wasn't carried out throughout the rest of the gameplay experience.


Caelum is an attempt to take the Peggle gameplay style of launching balls at items and bouncing around the board in order to rack up as many points as possible, but replaces the bottom bucket with a Break Out style paddle. If you manage to hit the paddle, your ball starts to fall to the top of the screen and any orbs you hit on the way up add to your tally. Once at the top of the screen, the ball falls back down, though at a higher rate, and again, any orbs you hit just add to your points. I did find it disappointing though, that if you managed to hit the paddle a second time on your return trip to the bottom of the screen, the pattern didn't continue. At most, you get a little bounce and then fall down off the screen to end the turn.

There are three types of power-ups available, and all are unlocked from the start. If you hit one of the two green orbs on the field, then you will have the chance to use your power whenever you want. These power-ups include a rocket-launching ability that plows the ball through any orbs in its path, an atomic blast that, when you hit a red orb (the ones you need to get rid of in order to clear the level) as the first orb on that turn, blasts all the surrounding orbs, and one that lets you move the paddle manually.

When you get right down to fit, Caelum has one major downfall, and that's the lack of change. All three of your power-up abilities are unlocked at the beginning, the gameboard theme never changes, and each level feels very much like the previous one. A simple inclusion of being able to unlock different abilities, or choose ahead of time between the ones available, would at least make the game feel less humdrum. Instead, after the first few levels, you quickly realize that you've seen everything the game has to offer.


Caelum doesn't pose much of a challenge in the grand scheme of things. Sure, there were quite a few orb layouts that took several attempts to get through, but there weren't any that left me stumped for days or any that required me to decide on some attack strategy. The game does offer a bit of variety in one place, and it's that area where the game's challenge shows. Not only does Caelum have layouts that use static orbs and those that follow set patterns, but they also have some that will move when you hit them, as well as some tethered by strings to the top of the screen that will swing around when you hit them. In both of these cases, causing an orb to hit another one will activate that orb as well. There is nothing more satisfying during these levels than hitting an orb and bouncing away to hit something else only to have that first orb set off a chain reaction of moving orbs that clears out a massive area of the gameboard. This is one of the few places in Caelum where you can apply some real strategy in order to maximize your points instead of simply trying to hit all the red orbs.

Game Mechanics:

I mentioned above that Caelum's biggest issue is a lack of variety, and because of that, it gets really hard to want to continue on in the game since you know there is very little reward for doing so. Well, there is one other issue, and that's its loose physics, and that isn't good for a game of this style. There were many times when I would launch a ball expecting it to go in a particular direction once it hit the initial target and be amazed by it going off in a completely different direction. There are also other times when the line the game draws to show the ball's trajectory shows it narrowly avoiding one orb in order to hit one just behind it, only to have it squarely hit the one I was trying to bypass. Quite frankly, that particular aspect was more than annoying since this gameplay style requires a lot of precision. All that being said, I feel like I would have been able to get past this problem if I had some reason to continue playing the game for more than my obligation to get through it for this review, or in the case of the game's non-reviewing owners, because I paid money for it. If the game simply offered something new every few levels, then I would feel more inclined to adjust my gameplay to the game's odd physics. As it is though, all of the little issues just snowball together into something that isn't all that fun after the first half-hour or so.

Okay, so Caelum is half the price of Peggle, but you get far less than half the variety and quality of the other game. As it stands, downloading the demo is the best way to experience Caelum, but even if you like what you see, don't expect anything different. With a lack of unlockables or variety, there isn't much of a reason to go beyond the trial period.

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

Minimum System Requirements:

1000 Mhz, 256 RAM, Graphics card with DirectX 8.1 Support

Test System:

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

Related Links:

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Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated