Having recovered from my foray into dancing thanks to Dancestar Party, I figured I could just put my Playstation Move controller down, fix a nice beverage, flop onto my sofa and dream of night fevers on a Saturday night. That’s what I thought I would do, until a copy of Move Mind Benders was kindly thrust under my nose. So, ladies and gentlemen, join me for a few paragraphs as I chronicle yet another exciting adventure with my trusted motion controller!
Move Mind Benders is a new compilation from Sony, showcasing three of their popular puzzlers that use Move. Featured are Tumble, Echochrome II and the timeless classic, Lemmings. These titles have been made available previously on the Playstation Store, apart from this version of Lemmings which fully supports Move. In terms of a cost factor, this is an extremely good deal.
Presentation on the main screen is attractive, detailing what’s in store with each game as you scroll through your choices. What’s also worth a mention here is that each game is completely different from each other, offering the variety that some compilations lack.
To begin with, I chose to play Tumble. This is one of the simplest of ideas to implement, the block puzzle. In a three dimensional hybrid of Tetris and Jenga, the aim of the game is to build blocks in accordance to each challenge you are given. Tutorials are thrust upon you in their droves, and while you are thinking if you should skip these, let me tell you this. DON’T! The premise may be simple, but the execution is far from it. Using Move, you aim the controller to “pick up” blocks of different shapes and textures, then attempt to place them onto a platform.
Tumble’s controls are really easy to pick up. You aim and press the trigger button to grab a block, then release it to drop.You can pan a camera up and around the platform to see if your stack is in alignment or to see if you can wedge a piece into an area not normally in view. Camera’s out of joint? A quick press of the circle button centres the camera and makes everything right in your blockworld. When you’ve grabbed a block, you can rotate the piece with simple flicks of the wrist. It is a necessity, so try not to forget it!
My first challenge was a basic building game, to see how high I could stack the blocks given to me and to achieve a high score. Depending on how high you go, determines what kind of medal you get for your efforts. First time is always the easiest, and it generously awards you with a Gold medal for making a giant stack. What I noticed while waving the controller about, was how precise the interaction was. Every movement I made, the on screen controller mimiced each of them perfectly.
Moving onto a new challenge now, the Place All challenge. This wasn’t going to judge my stacking abilities, this was going to test me on my arrangements as I had to place every single piece given to me onto the platform without it toppling. Initially, it was plain sailing. Three at a time, pieces would appear on the side of the screen. Careful thinking was needed as I placed each block carefully, trying to leave space for whatever came next. Emphasis on the word “careful” now, as nothing could prepare me for an unpredicatable egg/prism/cylinder formation! This is where Tumble started to put the pressure on, different shapes were being introduced and I was left wondering how it would be physically possible to balance a cone on an egg successfully without anything falling. The positive aspect with the game is that there’s no time limit, so you can freely think for as long as you need to, so you get it right.
If you manage to get through that, then a change of pace is introduced with Destruction mode. There is a very tall tower in the middle of what seems to be a giant dartboard-like points arena. Your job is to strategically place mines along the tower. These can be placed anywhere, but explode in order of placement. High scores are achieved by detonating the mines so the blocks fall and land onto the points circles of the board. The further the blocks travel, the bigger the points. There are multipliers on some of the blocks too, so again, spending time thinking about what’s the right plan of action will pay off.
Playing through each challenge unlocks new puzzles and new zones, gradually increasing in difficulty, and offering new methods to succeed. Cunning attempts to throw you off guard come thick and fast, especially on a first run.
Of course, you don’t have to go through this alone, as Tumble has a multiplayer option. Play against a chum to build the highest tower in the fastest time, or enjoy the power ups that interfere with the buildings. Have blocks slam into your opponents tower, or shower them with a savage rain of blocks. Although, there’s nothing more satisfying than causing an earthquake and watching your friend’s hard work collapse to the ground.
If there was a gripe to be had here, then it’d be that the camera can be your worst enemy at times. Panning around trying to find a block that you’d dropped, only for it to be slightly out of shot and unable to be picked up can cause frustration. That aside, Tumble is extremely fun to play, and certainly one game that makes the most out of Move. It has a lot of replay value, thanks to a nice blend of innovation and simplicity.
Next up, a total change of scenery with Echochrome II. I’d played the original game a few times on the PSP, and on an arcade machine in Home (along with some chilly penguin nonsense, but that’s for another time). An original puzzler mixed with what appeared to be an optical illusion, the premise was to guide a maquette-type figure to the goal, turning the game world around with a camera and moving through obstacles for completion. I was also rubbish at it.
This sequel is very much in the same vein, only now we’re using a mix of light and shadows. You are presented with a strange myriad of shapes which on first glance, mean absolutely nothing. The Move controller’s purpose here is the role of a flashlight. Hold it like you would a conventional torch and beam a light over the shapes to make a shadow appear on the wall behind it. This is where we shall guide our shadowy maquette to the goal by shifting the light around so the shadows change to make a safe route home.
Of course it’s never that easy, as you have to contend with holes in the floor, makeshift trampolines to get you to different areas of the shadow and special passages to reach higher ground. If you’re having a bit of trouble, then turn off the light to think and reposition yourself. The maquette won’t move when the light is off, but do be wary, there is a time limit. Successfully complete a level in a fast time, then go for some bragging rights and upload it to the Echochrome website or to YouTube straight after, so the world can see you for the clever monkey you really are.
Three modes of play are available, Escort, which is the main game. Then there is Echo, essentially you’re replaying the levels, only you have to catch ghost like versions of the maquettes to score points. Finally, there’s Paint. You have a coloured maquette that’s set out to cover the shadows with it’s painted feet. Other coloured characters are there, seeking to rid your colours off the board with their own taint. As with Tumble, it’s the different modes on offer that add to it’s replay factor.
Echochrome II also comes packed with two ingenious features. The first is the Shadow Art gallery, which can be opened up by playing the levels. Not only do you have to guide your chap to safety, but if you’ve got a good eye on you, you’ll be able to shine the light accordingly to make a particular shape. I found a Happy Face amongst the shadows and got a bonus for doing so. Trying to find them all will definitely keep you busy for a while. The other feature is Creator, the level creation tool that allows you to attempt to be as crafty as the developers. Build your puzzles, and when you’re satisfied with your own genius, upload them to share with the world. Alternatively, you can download levels from other people and wonder why you couldn’t be as good as them.
Certainly a unique title, from it’s blueprint-like presentation to it’s very soothing soundtrack, Echochrome II really surprised me. There’s so much crammed in, and with it’s dastardly puzzles, it’s no walk in the park. It’s very innovative, and without a doubt there’s nothing like it out there right now.
Onto Lemmings now, and I can honestly say that I thought I’d be leaving the best until the last. Sadly, not so. With the strengths of the two games I’d just played, Lemmings comes across as a disappointment. For the benefit of those who aren’t as old as me or those who’ve never heard of this, these Lemmings are green haired rodents who wear blue jumpers, hell bent on killing themselves. Your task is to get these critters home safely, equipping them with certain skills and tools to get there. Build a bridge over a chasm with a builder lemming, punch through walls with a basher, amongst others, being quick witted with your skills to help them through forty perilous levels.
This updated version has had a massive graphical boost and a bold interface to select the appropriate tool for the job required. The big problem lies within the actual controls. This is a case of point and click and selecting one amongst the many characters on screen at one time is difficult, considering the speed you’re required to do so at times. You’re prone to select the wrong one by accident and find you could be digging a hole towards a pit of lava, thus bringing your creatures to a fiery end. I did it more often than I wanted to on repeat occasions. Every level had a major obvious hazard, and by unwanted selection I couldn’t proceed as I’d doomed my pets from the off. I may as well have set them alight at the start of the level.
Sadly then, I found Lemmings to be the damp squib of the bunch. Others might take to it and enjoy it, certainly those who never played it before. Once all forty levels are completed, there’s nothing to draw you back and no sign of any multiplayer. All I came away with was a nagging sound in my ear of a helpless lemming, failing himself and his friends…
Move Mind Benders is great for those who want something different in their gaming. Puzzle fans will revel with what’s on offer here, but it certainly won’t pry anyone away from the latest war games. It’s a shame Lemmings didn’t deliver much more, as it’s inclusion is overshadowed by the strengths of Echochrome II and Tumble. For what it is, is a value package delivering innovation in ways not seen on a console, and embracing Move the way all of it’s titles should.