The best puzzle games often embody a design philosophy of “easy to learn, hard to master”. Part of the success of Tetris
is the fact that almost anyone can understand how to play in seconds,
yet you can spend countless hours playing it and still have room for
improvement. Most people have a definite sweet-spot for how complex
they like their puzzle games. Ask me if I like Bejeweled and you’re likely to get a grimace. Ask me if I like Sudoku
and you’re likely to get a similar response. I find the former
mind-numbingly easy, while the latter I find akin to homework. The
original Meteos is a fantastic versus puzzle game that falls
somewhere right near the center for me, keeping me hooked for long
periods of time.
Meteos Wars for Xbox Live Arcade is a sequel, of sorts, to the original Nintendo DS title, Meteos.
The basic gameplay is as follows; single blocks of different color fall
down from the top of the screen, stacking into columns. You can freely
drag any block to any position within its respective column but it must
stay in that column. When 3 or more blocks of the same color match
horizontally or vertically, those blocks are ignited and fly upward,
carrying any blocks above them as well. If any blocks reach the top of
your screen, they leave your playfield and ignited blocks will land in
your opponents playfield. Each planet you visit in the game has
different gravity and attributes so physics come into play here. Try to
launch too many blocks on a planet with heavy gravity and you’ll need
to ignite more that one set of blocks in a stack to get those blocks
out. As in many falling block games, let a column fill completely and
it’s game over for you.
While the original Meteos is definitely in my top favorite puzzle games of all time, Meteos Wars doesn’t quite live up to the charm and fun of the original. The most obvious difference is the lack of stylus control. While Meteos Wars
does a commendable and even excellent job of trying to make its
controls the best they can be, its frustrating for someone, like me,
who loved the lightning-fast stylus control of the original. Once I got
past that and accepted the game as somewhat slower placed, I fell into
a groove and managed to complete the game on normal mode fairly easily.
Unfortunately, the game just isn’t as good as the original.
Single-player modes have been simplified and shortened a bit and aren’t
quite as interesting. The cool little aliens now take more of a
backseat to the gameplay reducing the game’s charm. The music, like
many of Q?’s games is produced by gameplay, and while it does sound
more like actual music than it did in the original game, it’s just not
as interesting, charming or memorable. The GUI is more sterile and
while the graphics are prettier, higher definition and in some cases
even rendered in 3D, there just isn’t as much beauty to be found in Meteos Wars.
I even found myself noticing the some of the blocks looked a bit
“painted in photoshop”. It seems the look of the game was a bit rushed.
My biggest complaint, however, is the complete omission of most of the
item blocks found in the original game. These seem to have been ditched
in favor of four “Planet Impact” attacks that can be launched
periodically. Each alien race can use one of the four attacks. While
this adds a bit more individuality to each alien race, it’s just not nearly as
fun as having a wide array of crazy item blocks to enable or disable
the random appearance of in-game.
While I have not yet tried Meteos Wars‘ online play, a quick search online shows many complaints of chronic lag. Being that online play is one of Meteos Wars‘
many selling-points over the original game, this is pretty
unacceptable. Hopefully it will be fixed. (Editor’s note: The amount of lag made multiplayer matches an exercise in frustration.) In addition, while the
original game supported up to 4 players battling each other at once, Meteos Wars, only supports 2 players. These “wars” have been scaled down apparently.
These complaints aside Meteos Wars
is still a pretty good game, especially for people who don’t have a
Nintendo DS. The core of the game is there, the alien races are still
charming and the game still looks quite pretty. While I miss unlocking
planets and extras by spending the blocks I’ve launched (as seen in the
original game) the game does have unlockables via more achievement-like
conditions. New in Meteos Wars is the ability to accessorize
your aliens. This was probably added to allow people to individualize
themselves while playing online. It’s a nice little addition, albeit a
bit simple. One of the first things I unlocked was little steaming
piece of meat on a bone that you can sit on your aliens’ heads. Need I
Meteos Wars may be worth the points to you, if you consider yourself a big fan of puzzle games or the original Meteos. Otherwise, if you have Nintendo DS, you’ll be much better off with a copy of the original game.