Friday, December 15, 2006

Impulse Review

Impulse developed and published by Taparo.
The Good: Timing controls make it easy to make small changes, a lot of levels, solutions are provided, good physics model with multiple puzzle elements
The Not So Good: No level editor
What say you? A solid physics-based puzzle game: 6/8

The advent of more powerful computer has resulted in more sophisticated games that strive to simulate real life. This has extended itself into the puzzle genre, where real-world physics have become a part of the gameplay. Similar to Armadillo Run, Impulse involves sending a ball from start to finish by using exploding and imploding devices. Will Impulse prove to be the true integration of force with respect to time, or just an outdated Japanese car?

Impulse can best be described as a no-frills puzzle game. All of the puzzle elements are simple circles and faux-3-D squares and the background is essentially a sheet of graph paper. There are very few special effects in the game, which occur when bombs explode. The sound is along the same lines: bare bones sound effects that result when bombs explode. There could have been more pieces of flair in terms of graphics and sound, but really the game looks and sound just good enough to be acceptable. Impulse concentrates on the gameplay, so don’t expect any mind-boggling graphics or sound.

In Impulse, you are charged with sending a ball from the start to the finish. How do you accomplish this? By setting up bombs and other obstacles around the map to direct its path! Impulse contains a lot of levels scattered over eight episodes, and each level is well-designed where more than one solution is possible. You have four bombs at your disposal: explosion, implosion, bounce, and teleporter (each of these does exactly what you think they will). Each of the bombs can be set on a timer to go off at a specific time. If you run the simulation at least once, the ball’s placement will be indicated at each time interval; the bombs placement and timing can then be fine-tuned to an exact time (according to the time the replay is currently set to) to make precise puzzle solutions possible. Features like this are really the difference between a frustrating and enjoyable puzzle game, and thankfully Impulse falls into the enjoyable category. Impulse throws several obstacles in your way, including various blocks, keys that must be hit before the goal, bonuses, speed variations, and four kinds of fields: directional, rotational, random, and force. The gravity of the levels can also change, both in strength and direction. Your overall score is computed from the time used to complete the level minus any bonuses hit and lower is better. All of these things come together to provide just enough variety to make each successive puzzle unique and interesting throughout the game. Even though Impulse doesn’t have a large number of different elements, it has enough to make each challenge seem distinctive. The levels increase in difficulty as you go along, and since solutions are included with the game, you’ll never be totally stuck and consequently perturbed. Impulse is not an overly complicated game, but it is effective and pretty fun.

Impulse takes a relatively simple concept and makes a high-quality game out of it. The game features a high number of varied puzzles, easy to learn mechanics, and multiple solutions with answers for each level, and that’s all you really need for a pleasant puzzle game. Sure, the graphics and sound are outdated, but Impulse thrives on its gameplay, and the gameplay is successful. A level editor could have been a neat addition to the game, but there are so many puzzles included, you probably won’t even notice. Those who are interested in a good puzzle game should check out this title, a majority of which is available for free, instant play over the Internet, so there’s no reason not to!