Thursday, December 27, 2007

Treasures of Ra Review

Treasures of Ra, developed and published by Kudos Games.
The Good: Original mechanics, level editor
The Not So Good: Very linear solutions, quite difficult
What say you? A somewhat unique puzzle game, but solitary answers limit replay value and increase difficulty: 5/8

Ancient Egypt has been the source of inspiration for many computer games, from city builders to causal games. Developer Kudos Games presents us with Treasures of Ra, a puzzle game using an Egyptian theme where you must guide beams of light by moving objects around a room. Their previous offering, Wu Hing, was an enjoyable board game thanks to unique gameplay and high replay value. Does Treasures of Ra benefit from the same features?

Treasures of Ra features some bland and generic graphics for a puzzle game. The title is presented in 2-D and features very basic textures that are only vaguely reminiscent of an Egyptian area due to their “sandy” appearance. The special effects are few and far between, mainly related to the beam of light you must manipulate around each level. Treasures of Ra can be played in a window due to its low resolution. Treasures of Ra is simply not impressive in terms of graphics, even for a puzzle game. The game does include appropriate and somewhat catchy background music that fits the overall theme of the game; since the sound effects are sparse at best, having a decent soundtrack is a good feature. So overall, Treasures of Ra is below the average puzzle game in terms of graphics and sound.

The primary directive of Treasures of Ra is to guide a beam of light through a level by moving and using various objects. The game features quite a number of levels that will keep you busy for a while, in addition to a level editor to make your own impossible puzzles. The first few levels include hints to teach you the basics of the game. Most of the puzzles contain an arrangement of things that reflect the beam (namely mirrors) and things that block the light (everything else) and you need to move them in order to direct the light in the correct path. This seems easy enough, but every object slides until it hits another object. This makes planning very difficult and makes Treasures of Ra a non-trivial puzzle game. The difficulty is ratcheted up by including different colors of light and pits that must be filled in order to cross. While the potential of the game is there, Treasures of Ra is very hard and this is mostly due to their being usually only one solution to each level. This means you must slide each object in a specific order in order to successfully complete a level. I enjoy more variety and flexibility in puzzle games, mainly because most people don’t think alike. Treasures of Ra can get really frustrating as you can’t really mess up and still pass each level, even early on in the game. There is not a “rewind” button to skip back a move, so you have to do the whole level over again if you mess up once. I got really stuck on the sixth level of the game. Sixth! I don’t consider myself a puzzle game genius, but I review enough of them to be able to pass the introductory set of levels.

Treasures of Ra features a deadly combination: high difficulty and restricted solutions. You can’t have both of those things in a puzzle game and still have it appeal to a large audience, and I suspect a lot of people will be turned away by the extreme difficulty of the game. The game is not a carbon copy of other puzzle games, so its unique gameplay is appreciated: moving objects around to guide beams of light is certainly original. The problem is that there isn’t room for error in Treasures of Ra, and because of that its appeal is limited. Those looking for a very challenging puzzle game will find a distinctive title, but most of the gaming community can skip past the severe difficulty.