Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Concentration Review

Concentration, developed by Freeze Tag and published by Mumbo Jumbo.
The Good: A reasonable assortment of puzzles, accurate gameplay, challenging puzzles, reasonable AI
The Not So Good: No online play, repetitive sound, no custom puzzles
What say you? A faithful recreation of the classic game show: 6/8

One of the many game shows I followed in my youth was Concentration. While it wasn’t my favorite (that high honor goes to Press Your Luck), it was still good entertainment that required some skill in order to win, unlike a lot of the contemporary game shows. Most, if not all, game shows translate well to the computer gaming realm, so it’s not surprising to see a new version of Concentration coming around the corner. The classic game show required you to remember where prizes were hidden on a game board and then figure out a puzzle using pictures and letters to convey a common phrase. Will Concentration feature all of the heart-pounding excitement of Concentration?

While Concentration is not rendered in 3-D, the game does get the style of the game board and puzzles correct. You won’t see the host or avatars representing your player, but Concentration does use the old color scheme (along with some new ones) for the game board and the puzzles are just as flamboyant as during the TV show. The various prizes have good icons for each of them, so overall the game board holds true and looks good. Concentration does feature the classic sound effects for matches and choosing squares on the board, but it seems like they couldn’t afford licensing the theme song and had to resort to some hokey selections. The host also becomes terribly repetitive, even during the first round of the first game you will play. It doesn’t seem like much attention was paid to the sound outside of the accurate effects, but the audio doesn’t ruin the overall experience. The graphics and sound for Concentration are exactly what you would expect for a $20 game: straight and to the point, accurate but not making any improvements.

The game of Concentration exactly mirrors the game of Concentration (or is it vice versa?). Concentration (the game, not the game) can be played by one player against the computer or two human players on the same computer. There is no online play, something that would have been greatly welcomed (and caused a higher overall score). If you are unfamiliar with the conventions of the game show (if so, what is wrong with you?), here is how play progresses. A puzzle is covered up by twenty-five squares, each containing a prize. If the player matches two squares with the same prize, he or she earns that prize and the two squares are removed from the board, revealing a portion of the puzzle. The puzzles combine pictures, numbers, and letters to form a well-known phrase, although there is some abstraction involved to make the puzzles more difficult (for example, a picture of a dove represents the word “of”). Whoever correctly solves two puzzles first wins and moves on to the bonus round. The bonus round is similar, although there are pictures of cars hidden behind fifteen squares and you must match all of them within a thirty-second time limit.

Concentration stays true to the original game show. The puzzles have the same design as the originals and there are enough of them so that it takes a while to find repeats. There is no puzzle editor, though, which would have been a neat addition. The prizes are more contemporary in nature and the colorful backgrounds aid in identification. You will occasionally find wild cars that will automatically find the match of the other card you chose, and take cards will allow you to take (surprise) a prize from your opponent. The game tracks high scores and cumulative stats for a single player name, and even assigns a champion title to the current undefeated player. This is a game where the AI could really cheat a lot, but it seems like the AI has been programmed fairly: it plausibly finds matches, makes some mistakes, and waits until near the end to solve the puzzle. Overall, the AI is a fair competitor that makes playing the game enjoyable. While I would have liked to have online play in the game, Concentration does offer everything you would expect a game based on the show to have, so fans of the game show will find an enjoyable replica here.

Concentration translates very well to a computer game, and Concentration is an entertaining computer game. While the game lacks online play and the host is repetitive, the remainder of the game is a very accurate replica of the game, delivering all of the hot memorization action of the game show. The AI provides a good competitor, but playing against another human placed within smacking range (for when they steal a prize you just found) is good fun. The puzzles are numerous enough and challenging enough to round out this quality title. While it’s a little odd to see a computer game version of a show this old, Concentration is still an enjoyable game and a good fit into the library of any fan of the show or computer games in general.