The Nintendo DS is opening brand new experiences for gamers and developers a like. Take Zoo Keeper for example - a game which some wrote off until actually trying it. As was pointed out by a reader, the game is actually based on a popular flash game but we just couldn't get into the flash version as much as the DS and the reason is simple; the stylus. It is revolutionizing the way you interact with games and Nintendo leads the pack in terms of technology. Polarium is their latest title and while it is a very simple game it uses the stylus extremely well creating a very simple, but very intuitive experience that puzzle gamers and those who travel a lot will like.
The concept of the game is simple; make all the tiles on the screen the one colour and they will disappear. In many ways this is a lot like Tetris. By creating lines of the same tiles, they disappear and you keep going. This only occurs in the challenge mode however which continues until the screen is full of mixed up tiles. The other mode, known as the puzzle mode is a lot more challenging but gives a lot more time to complete each puzzle for one reason.
The goals in Polarium are either to clear the screen, or flip every tile to the right colour in one single movement of the stylus, which is much harder than it sounds. The game mechanic could not be simpler, draw the line and then tap the final box to eliminate or flip the tiles in that line. In many ways this is the game's downfall, you really have to like puzzle games to get into this game. It's not a pretty game to look at by any stretch of the imagination but that is why the gameplay is so ingenious. The game is completely relying on its gameplay to get gamers engrossed and like Zoo Keeper it's another "just one more game" addiction.
There is more to Polarium than drawing lines however. To challenge your friends you can create your own puzzles and you can also play via wireless connection. It would have been fantastic had this game had the ability to read from a PC as downloading puzzles over the net would have made this a much lengthier experience - it is a little lacking in replay value despite its 80+ puzzles. When you do get stuck the game gives you a bit of a hint by displaying the last failed attempt and after a period of time the recommended start and end points will be displayed. This is what the top screen is used for.
To look at the game it comes across as very bland and in fact it COULD have been displayed on an Amiga many moons ago. The presentation of the game does leave a bit to be desired but the gameplay does come through to still make it a worthwhile game to check out. Sound effects are restricted to stylus movement and there is a soundtrack completely blocked out by the stylus movement sound with no option to change, very poor design decision.
When all is said and done Polarium is a game that suits the console extremely well but could have used some more effort in game modes to keep it interesting once you're done with the puzzle mode and are sick of the challenge mode. One for the puzzle fans but unless you absolutely want to just draw lines all day, Zoo Keeper offers a much better gaming experience and has a lot more features.
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