Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Avalon Review

Avalon, developed and published by White Elephant Games.
The Good: Fairly addictive, three game modes (although two are in essence the same)
The Not So Good: Less diversity than other games, not the best graphics
What say you? Another color-clearing game that could have more variety and accoutrements: 5/8

From the number of puzzle games available on the Internet, it seems this genre of PC gaming is alive and kicking. As a review site that caters to both small and large developers (unlike some sites… you know who I’m talking about), I get my fair share of puzzle games, and they just keep on coming! It’s probably due to the fact that developing one is a fairly simple affair (they usually have simple graphics and sound that a one person team could develop) that adds to the sheer number of them available. In order to be memorable, however, they must offer something that is unique, something that sets them apart from the rest. Does Avalon shine with beautiful apple goodness, or just rot along side the rest of the puzzle games?

Avalon has some very simple (some would say outdated) 2-D graphics accompanied by few special effects. The game is easy to navigate and the interface doesn’t interfere with the mechanics of the game, and possible areas that might be cleared are highlighted, but there are many other puzzle games that use 3-D-like effects to spice up the action. The graphics are at the very basic and utilitarian level, just serving the purpose of continuing the gameplay. The sound is along the same lines, with some basic effects to signify different events that occur during the game. One would like to see some sort of innovation or additions to the graphics and sound departments in every puzzle game, but this is not the case in Avalon.

Avalon is a puzzle game where you click to remove adjacent gems of identical colors. These groups must consist of at least three continuous gems. And that’s essentially it. There are three different game modes in Avalon, but the first two are basically the same. In both Action and Strategy mode, new rows of gems appear from the top of the screen, and you lose if any gems touch the top (like in Tetris). You must have a given number of new rows drop from the top before you move on to the next level. In action mode, the new rows drop continuously; however, in strategy mode they drop only when you clear gems from the playing field, so it’s less hectic (and less challenging). Avalon also has a puzzle mode where you are given a set number of gems and must figure out the appropriate order in which to eliminate them to clear them all. Puzzle mode is fairly challenging and the puzzles are well thought out. There are some bonuses that can get strewn around the map, such as color bombs (that eliminate all gems of a certain color) and super bombs (which blow up adjacent gems). You can also earn ranks while you play: messages pop-up to inform you that you’ve earned “tenderfoot” (not a real rank) rank, which interrupts the gameplay and is generally annoying.

Avalon doesn’t really offer anything new that we haven’t seen in other game like this. The game is easy to play and relatively addictive, but it’s missing one or two original features that would separate it from the pack. There is some variety in the game modes, but other similar games have more. The graphics don’t get in the way of the gameplay, but other similar games look better. Avalon is plainly a plain game with plain features and plain action. It’s not a bad game, per se, but it doesn’t add anything new to the table that differentiates itself from the other games on the market.