Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Phony Ring two:five Review

Phony Ring two:five, developed and published by Volatile Assembly.
The Good: Simple game mechanics, interesting visual style, distinctive falling block adaptation
The Not So Good: Difficulty could increase faster
What say you? A Tetris variant that’s unique enough to be great fun: 7/8

After Tetris was released, countless imitations followed. Everyone wanted to cash in to the overwhelming popularity of arranging falling blocks. A lot of these direct clones have fallen by the wayside, but every so often a title comes around that changes up things just enough to make it seems fresh and inventive. This brings us to Phony Ring two:five, an oddly-named game from an oddly-named developer. So, what makes Phony Ring two:five unique? Funny I should ask myself that, because I was just about to let myself know!

Phony Ring two:five has a distinct visual style that makes the game very unique from a graphical standpoint. The game has simple graphics, but they work well and definitely stand out against the crowd. Phony Ring two:five fits neatly into a window and the backgrounds never confuse or deter from the gameplay. The background music of the game is one of the highlights of Phony Ring two:five. Some might find the minimalist techno music to the annoying, but I felt it fits the game well and served as a good backdrop to the action. Phony Ring two:five positively won’t be confused with other titles in terms of graphics and sound, as it abounds with individuality in both categories.

In Phony Ring two:five, you arrange falling blocks of two pieces into groups of five or more at the bottom of a ring. This is pretty evident from the start: it’s in the title, people! All of the direction is done using the mouse: pointing the mouse will rotate the pieces to the different columns of the ring, left clicking will switch the block positions, and right clicking will drop them. The simple controls will make the game easy to learn for all skill levels. The groups of five or more can be connected horizontally or vertically, and the game shows the blocks that are currently joined. Points are awarded for each block removed after the first four, so a straight-up removal of five will only result in one point. When blocks are eliminated, the blocks above them fall to occupy their space. Big bucks result from connecting large numbers of blocks in one turn, or eliminating additional blocks when they fall down into the empty spaces. Overall, Phony Ring two:five is a very simple game to play and actually extremely fun, even if you’ve played tons of these Tetris clones before. The unique circular arrangement of the game scores points for originality, and the lack of confusing shapes and the allowance for some advanced techniques makes Phony Ring two:five even better. My only complaint with the game is that the difficulty takes a while to ramp up. There is a lot of space to operate with in Phony Ring two:five, and it takes a long time to get to the level where blocks are falling “too fast.” You can choose quick mode (the level increases after fewer block eliminations), but even then it’s still fairly slow going. I think Phony Ring two:five would fare slightly better with an accelerated difficulty curve and consequently quicker games.

Even with my minor complaints, overall Phony Ring two:five is excellent. The game certainly looks and sounds unique. The controls are easy to learn, simple to use, and implement only the mouse (although I tend to confuse left click with right click and get myself in trouble). I wish the game moved along faster, because I feel Phony Ring two:five is best in short, controlled bursts, but this is a minor complaint. The game allows for some good strategies to maximize the points you earn. Ensuring that most “pops” eliminate more than five blocks is the key to more points, and more points means a higher score: you heard it here first. The relatively large playing surface adds a fair amount of difficulty to the game, as you try to remember what strategy you were using in each part of the board. With the simple mechanics that allow for more strategy than most Tetris clones, block-dropping fans will find a fantastically fun game in Phony Ring two:five.