Sunday, June 5, 2011

You're absolutely glowing tonight

Glow Worm
Game Category: Casual, Kids, Puzzle, Match Three
Developer / Distributor: Flashbang Studios
Release Date: 19 Apr 2005 
Rating: ESRB - Everyone

Introduction
Puzzles test you through the use of logical deduction in achieving a target, like putting something back into a particular order or answering a question, this however has to be accomplished under a set of rules designed for the puzzle. Depending on the type of challenge placed before you, you will either be hopelessly addicted to the puzzle or drift away from it because it is either too easy or just too difficult.

Take a look at something like Sudoku on the PC, now there's a puzzle that has seen millions of square grids being generated all around the world so that the numbers one through nine can be filled into a 9 x 9 square in a manner governed by the rules of the puzzle. What makes it so addictive? Well, Sudoku certainly challenges your noggin and keeps you glued to it simply because the solution is achievable through iterative deduction. There's is also that extra something that tantalizes you into completing it.

Glow Worm from Flashbang Studios is a different sort of puzzle game altogether. It is a creative take on placement of color tiles. At its core, Glow Worm is a turn-based Go type of game that uses the Match three concept to remove tiles that match. Surprisingly this game was to me as addictive as Sudoku and I really liked it. The game lasts quite a while, but I felt it could have done just that little more to catch you hook, line, and sinker into puzzling heaven.

Welcome to an addictive puzzler

Background
Alright, let's begin with the cheesy background story. The game brings you to Glow Valley. No, this isn't the Glow Worm Caves of Waitomo, New Zealand, but an imaginary place. It seems all the glow worms in the valley are in danger from the Shadow Wizard who has trapped them in cages. You will accompany Mr. Magellan, a huge caterpillar that reminds me of Jiminy Cricket, on your quest to free all the glow worms from the evil Wizard.

Mr. Magellan teaches you how to play
Game Play
Glow Worm has three game modes and they are not too different from each other. Before I explain them, I thought you should know more about the core mechanics of the game.

Glow Worm has you placing worms on a grid. You can remove at least 4 creatures of the same color that are placed adjacent to each other. Worms are colored in bright colors - red, yellow, green, blue, magenta, and white. Worms also have dots on them; these dots are of a different color from the main body of the worm. When you perform a match, worms will automatically metamorphose into a firefly that has the same color as the dots.

You will get hints during the early levels


Levels typically feature the following special tiles:
  • Bushes must be cleared by creating a match adjacent to it (either one or two matches depending on the type of bush).
  • Colored bushes look nothing like bushes, in fact they look more like flowers. You need to perform a match using the required color adjacent to it to convert the colored bush to a normal bush.
  • Gray squares are cleared like any typical match three game. Perform matches of 4 or more worms / fireflies and they disappear.
  • Walls can only be cleared by bombs.
  • Cages are cleared by creating a single match adjacent to it. 

Classic mode
Alright, now that you understand the rules, let's get on with a description of the three modes:
  • Classic mode features 48 levels. In this mode, your objective is to clear all the gray squares on the board; forget about clearing green bushes and colored flowers. Gravity is not in play. You can right click to swap colors between the main body and the dots of the current worm affixed to your cursor. 
  • There are 50 levels in Adventure mode. This game mode has gravity in play, so all worms you place will drop towards the bottom. In this mode, your objective is to clear all green bushes and colored flowers. You can right click to swap colors between the main body and the dots of the current worm affixed to your cursor.

Going on an adventure
  • Puzzle mode throws at you groups of six boards - there are a total of 66 boards. You can try any of the six boards, but must complete all to proceed to the next six. Gravity is not in play. In this mode, your objective is to clear the board by scoring points, so your best bet is to get combo. You cannot right click to swap colors between the main body and the dots of the current worm affixed to your cursor.

Which one next?
There are a couple of power ups that will appear occasionally. Take for example, the bomb - this bug carries a bomb on his back that will clear out 9 squares; you need an empty space to plant him down though, and the slug - drop this little guy to swap the colors for all glow worms on the board.

There are other power ups, like the snail and the scarab, that you will have to find out for yourself.

Graphics
The color choice is rather gaudy for my tastes, but I would think it is a reasonably good palette choice to keeps kids glued to the screen. The worms look very cute indeed and the way they metamorphose into fireflies looks very smooth. Mr. Magellan is big and purple, but frankly he doesn't really do much in the game other than to animate now and then.

There's no doubt the graphics look cute and lovely


Audio
The sound effects is in the cute department, especially as matches are made. There isn't much in terms of music; whatever there was almost made me want to sleep. Mr. Magellan's voice work sounded rather pompous; this wasn't really my cup of tea.

A snippet of trivia greets you when you complete a board
Pros:
  • Simple puzzle concept.
  • Addictive game play.
  • Beautiful graphics and colors that will excite the kids. 
Cons:
  • Once you finish each game mode, you may be disappointed to find no surprises to unlock in the game.
  • Expect to retry for some of the boards; they can be quite frustrating to complete due to the cramped space provided by the 7 x 10 square grid. You really need to plan ahead so you clear a difficult board.

    Oh oh... I'm in trouble, the board is almost full... again

    Conclusion
    Glow worms is a pretty good game to play, and more so with your kids. The rules to the puzzle is pretty straightforward and the game mechanic is a surprisingly neat idea that I've not seen anywhere else so far. You have more than 150 levels to play which should last you for some time.

    After all is said and done however, you should just hit the uninstall button, unless you don't mind replaying Glow Worm all over again.

    Daily PC Game Review Score: 7 / 10
    Review Date: 5 Jun 2011

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