Sunday, July 05, 2009

Egg Mania

Egg Mania
Hot Gen Studios
Gameboy Advance
Review Score: 7/10

February 16, 2005

Hot Gen Studios had established themselves as a quality videogame studio on the Gameboy Advance. I'll still insist that Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer is, after Advance Wars 2, the finest game ever created for the handheld. These people knew how to make great games, knew how to keep the players hooked, knew how to paint graphics that glow and dance.

They have since closed down, like so many small development houses in Europe and America during the past few years. This fact is even more depressing when you discover just how gifted and skilled these people were, and how increasingly stale and risk-averse the giant publishers have become.
Egg Mania is an good example of this. Here is a puzzler with enough personality and polish to elevate it above the level of Cheap Gimmick. It's a good little game.

For some reason, the Advance has seen very few puzzlers. There was a long stretch in the 1990's when the original Gameboy had nothing but puzzle games. A lot of those titles were really good, too. What happened to them? I expected the steady stream of puzzlers to continue into this decade, but they've all but died out. Goodness knows, games like these can't be expensive to produce.

Excuse me, I'm rambling here. It happens.

What you should know about Egg Mania is that it takes the standard Tetris game, adds a few clever twists to the formula, and still manages to feel fresh. Here, you are given your choice of egg charcters, each with their own unique look, who must catch the falling pieces and form the rows.

Egg Mania, however, is not about clearing endless rows of blocks. The goal is to build towers so that you can escape to a waiting balloon at the top of the playfield. You must, however, pay attention to your structural integrity. For insance, if you were simply to throw blocks on top of one another, eventually, the foundation will collapse and you'll lose all the pieces. Since this is a race to the top, you will lose precious time. Oh, and one more thing: your pit is being filled with water.

It's a great example of solid game design. You must call upon your Tetris skills, but you must also keep your eyes on your opponent, who is trying to beat you to the finish. There are a number of power-ups and bonus blocks, ranging from concrete (to fill up holes) to faster speed, to - my favorite - bombs. I'm sure you know what to do with those.

There are a number of gameplay modes, including a special bomb-throwing mode where you and a friend just throw bombs at each other (it plays like a portable Twinkle Star Sprites). Usually, the single-player game involves a ladder progression against different eggs, playing against any number of brightly colorful backdrops.

I find myself enjoying this game, but I suspect this was made with human opponents in mind. Playing the computer feels functionary at best, because there's never really any challenge. You're just going through the motions. Why isn't there more variety in the computer players' strategy and technique? Why isn't this game, well, tougher?

Playing against a friend is where the real action lies, and my suspicion is the single-player modes are merely practice for the real action. And on that front, it really does work. There can be some really heated matches, especially when you're hurling bombs at one another. If that isn't your idea of fun, then I don't know what is.

1 comment:

lixue said...

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Margaret

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