Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Beezzle Review

Beezzle, developed by Casatronics Games and published by Alawar Entertainment.
The Good: Three different game modes, lots (300!) of levels, unique hexagon layouts, themed graphic design
The Not So Good: Repetitive
What say you? A color-matching puzzle game with a number of novel components: 6/8

Probably the most feared common insect is the bee. Armed with pointy stingers, they can pounce at any moment and ruin your picnic and/or outdoor wedding. However, we must deal with bees because they are guarding the precious, precious honey. Thankfully, we now have a game where we can appease the bees simply by completing puzzles! Beezzle (a combination of the words “bee,” “puzzle,” and “Jessica Simpson”) is a puzzle game where you must make rows of same-colored drops arranged in honeycombs. How will Beezzle differentiate itself from the large hive of puzzle games? Will I continue to use humorous bee puns? You better bee-lieve it! HA HA!

Beezzle has a distinctive graphical style deriving from its source material. All of the levels are in bright, summery environments that you would expect in a game such as this. There are a number of pieces of flair that accentuate the game: flowers, animated bees, a slightly concerned sun, and more. The music falls along the same lines, with light and fanciful background tunes that support the theme even further. A lot of games have indistinctive elements and can’t be separated from each other, but this is not the case with Beezzle.

Beezzle comes at you with three different game modes, all of them surround the basic premise: you must swap color-coded nectar drops in order to make rows of three or more. This is a pretty basic puzzle dynamic, but it’s made more difficult in Beezzle by using hexagon-shaped honeycombs. This means that the rows go diagonally or vertically, and you can move any particular nectar drop to six possible locations. All this results in a pretty unique gaming experience that is both easy to learn but challenging. To make it easier, the game uses subtle hints to show possible swaps you can make, or you can ask for a more obvious hint. There are also a number of different bonuses available to destroy large quantities of drops (bombs or rockets) and other benefits (such as increased time) that appear randomly on the board.

As I mentioned a paragraph earlier (weren’t you paying attention?), there are three game modes to challenge your puzzle moxie. In action mode, you swap drops to create rows of three or more, which fills a status bar. Completing enough rows will spawn a special crystal that must be eliminated before time runs out. Puzzle mode features a cute, baby bee pupa (much cuter than in real life) that must be moved to a certain location around the board. You lose a life if you make any move that doesn’t involve the pupa, but making a correct move replenishes a lost life. In fill mode, you must make a row involving drops located in all of the level’s honeycomb hexagons before time runs out (especially difficult for the corner locations). All of these modes, even though they are essentially the same, employ different strategies and are dissimilar enough to make them distinct. This is unlike most games that feature lots of different modes that are really the same thing. You must move uncomfortably fast in timed modes, but thankfully the game makes moving drops very easy: you can just drag a drop instead of the classic double-clicking dynamic. This decreases the time required to move drops and creates more time for formulating your strategy and scouring the map for possible solutions.

In the end, Beezzle is a distinctive puzzle game that has enough parts to separate itself from the pack. The game employs an easy convention but spices up the mix with a great theme and interesting board layout. The game does get a little monotonous after a while, so the game is best played in short bursts (as are most puzzle games). There are a lot of different boards (300), so you’ll never see the exact same honeycomb arrangement more than once. The multiple, unique game modes also increases the value of the game. Most people who enjoy color-swapping matching games will find a distinguished and fun experience contained within the hive of Beezzle.