Thursday, March 23, 2006

Tube Twist Review

Tube Twist, developed by 21-6 Productions and published by Garage Games.
The Good: Many puzzle pieces and multiple solutions, nice graphical effects, addictive gameplay
The Not So Good: Can be frustrating and difficult at times with the few inflexible levels
What say you? An interesting puzzle game in the vein of The Incredible Machine: 6/8

Man has invented many different methods of transporting goods. Conveyor belts. Trucks. Anna Nicole Smith. But how should we transport small balls of energy? This is the quandary posed by Tube Twist, a puzzle game where you must construct a device to guide balls from start to finish, using tubes and other assorted contraptions along with the incredible force of gravity. This is along the same lines of the classic PC game The Incredible Machine, where you had to construct strange, Rube Goldberg-like mechanisms to do something (like give Dick Cheney a sponge bath, although my memory is a bit sketchy). Will Tube Twist prove a sufficient construction puzzle game? Will there be any sponge baths? Man, I hope so!

Despite being a relatively simple puzzle game, Tube Twist has some slightly impressive graphics. First, all of the levels are rendered in 3-D; this creates a believable environment where the experiments are taking place. 3-D is not really needed in a game such as this (Tube Twist could have worked just as well using 2-D graphics), but it’s a nice touch. The 3-D graphics never get in the way or complicate the game, they are just intended to make the game look a little bit better, and in this aspect they succeed. There are also some nice effects that accompany the movement of the objects through the level (namely explosions) that spice up the action. The sound effects are generally basic, mostly resulting from the different pieces that are activated during gameplay. The music fits the whimsy theme of the game well. Compared to other puzzle games, both the graphics and the sound of Tube Twist are above average.

The object of Tube Twist is to guide color-coded balls from their color-coded start to their color-coded end using tubes (and some additional effects). It is a simple concept that is easy to understand, making the game have a small initial learning curve. A game such as this lives and dies by the quality of the puzzles, and Tube Twist has a good variety. The main problem with puzzle games is that a lot of the levels have only one solution to them and it’s up to the player to figure out what the developer intended. Fortunately, these puzzles are kept to a minimum in Tube Twist, as most of the puzzles have more than one possible solution. This speaks to well-designed arrangements, and even though you are limited to the type of pieces you can use in each puzzle, there is usually more than one way to solve each experiment. Part of this results from the fact that there may be more than one ball of a single color, and you can decide which endpoint to send it to. This kind of flexibility is appreciated, and results in much less frustration in solving the puzzles. In order to solve each of the puzzles, you are given access to a set number of tubes and assorted pieces to guide and fling your balls (ewww!) across the map. There is a good assortment of 30 interesting elements that you can use, from basic straight and curved pieces, to switches and cannons and funnels. There is also a good number of default puzzles that you can unlock in any order (as long as you’ve beaten all of the previous set), and the developers plan on releasing future free experiment packs to extend the game even further.

Tube Twist has a simple idea that’s executed very well. All of the aspects of the game have a polish to them that makes playing a game a joy. Tube Twist is easy to learn, and the amount of puzzle variety makes the game fun to play. The fact that many of the puzzles have multiple solutions eliminates much of the aggravation associated with puzzle games. I felt very proud completing each of the puzzles, flinging my balls (ewww!) across the screen successfully to their destination. Tube Twist is one of the better puzzle games I have encountered: fun, challenging, and mostly enjoyable.