Thursday, July 26, 2007

Plumeboom: The First Chapter Review

Plumeboom: The First Chapter, developed by Fireglow Casual Studios and published by Big Fish Games.
The Good: Slightly innovative mechanics, very fast pace, a number of bonuses
The Not So Good: Not much different from other matching games, not challenging enough, repetitive, bonuses unlock very slowly
What say you? An average puzzle game that’s mostly too easy but occasionally too hard: 5/8

I’ve reviewed my fair share of puzzle games, a genre that “major” PC gaming sites generally tend to ignore (they are games on the PC, so they still count). I’ve gotten to the point where a puzzle or arcade game from either a small developer or a prolific publisher needs to offer something unique in order for me to review it. So I saw a press release for Plumeboom, saying it is “an addictive and novel title” with “jug-juggling-happiness.” Sounds good enough for me! Does The First Chapter of Plumeboom offer happiness in a jug-juggling form, or are its juggling jugs not juggly enough?

The graphics of Plumeboom are relatively simplistic. The generic 2-D graphics are merely functional and they lack a lot of the special effects that are present in many contemporary puzzle games. The backgrounds are nice enough, although you won’t be paying any attention to them during the game. There is just nothing too exciting or too memorable about the average graphics in the game. The sound is along the same lines: average at best. I like the pot shattering sound, though, but the rest of the repetitive audio is less than enthralling. The introductory song is very annoying, but the background music during normal gameplay is tolerable. Plumeboom represents the average of the puzzle genre in terms of presentation.

Plumeboom takes a somewhat fresh approach to the matching game. Here, you can either shoot pots to the end of a line or exchange them with existing pots to make matches. Plus, the game takes place horizontally, which actually feels a little different. The game’s fast pace keeps it away from being completely tedious, since by the time you get bored or tired of one particular level, it’s done and you move on to the next one. The game helps you finish each level as it provides appropriate colors to tidy up near the end; this is a nice feature since you could potentially be there all day if you keep pulling the wrong colored pots. As long as you keep making matches, no new columns will be added. Pots will only disappear if it’s directly a result of your actions, not if it appears and makes a match automatically. Coins are earned in each level that can be spent to gain new bonuses, and you can wear clothes that match the weather to gain bonus points.

Plumeboom is not a very challenging game. There are no difficulty settings, and most of the game is just a cakewalk. The game tries to add occasional roadblocks like unmatchable pots or spider webs that block access to certain columns, but the only real obstacle the game fabricates is the timer. Occasionally, a timer will appear for a level that will add a new column at a very quick pace, and this is the only time I had problems playing the game. This timer increases the difficulty dramatically, and it’s disconcerting that there is no middle ground with the challenge level of Plumeboom. There are some balance issues with the game, and the gameplay is either too easy or too hard. The game comes with a lot of levels, but each additional level is the same and bonuses and new mechanics unlock very, very slowly. Plumeboom could have had half of the level count and introduced new things more quickly to keep players more interested in the game for the long term.

While Plumeboom has the basics down and provides some innovative gameplay, there are some issues with the game that keep it from being completely entertaining. I like the bonuses that can be purchased, but they unlock too slowly. The game is also far too easy for every level except for the ones that incorporate the evil timer. Each level flies by at a quick pace, but there are just too many levels, and I wish the game completed more quickly and added more modes of play. Only those gamers who crave new puzzle games will be entertained long enough to wade their way through this title, a game that lacks the features to promote continuing entertainment.