Sunday, May 04, 2008

Paradoxion Review

Paradoxion, developed by VSB Games and published by Slave Circus Entertainment.
The Good: Very challenging, fairly unique gameplay with numerous puzzle elements, lots of levels and a level editor, online solutions and in-game help
The Not So Good: Too challenging since most puzzle have only one very specific solution
What say you? Want a really, really tough puzzle game? Here you go: 6/8

Puzzle games run the gamut from action-packed and fast-paced to drawn-out and thought-provoking (and some in the middle). The different types appeal to different crowds who want a different experience at different times (where’s my thesaurus when I need it?). Paradoxion is one of those slower-paced games where success does not depend on reflexes but rather on planning, strategy, and smarts (that last requirement will put a lot of us in deep trouble). How will this take on the logic-based puzzle turn out?

The presentation of Paradoxion can be described as “basic.” The game is in 2-D, with the game being played on a flat board. There is a handful of effects when orbs are destroyed or special elements are activated, but mostly Paradoxion is pretty static and not too exciting visually. The backgrounds are nice, though, but most of the time you’ll be ignoring them. The sound is along the same lines: generic effects that accompany each of the in-game actions and spacey background music. Frankly, there’s not much to say about the graphics and the sound because there isn’t much to say about the graphics and the sound. Go figure.

The goal of Paradoxion is to place objects in your inventory in such a manner as to cause other objects to explode and move to cause more objects to explode and move, eventually removing every object from the game board because they all exploded. The game comes with 90 levels and a level editor, so you won’t be hurting for content. The fairly unique gameplay of Paradoxion is still intuitive and you should get the hang of it quickly. There are a number of objects you will have to eliminate on the game board: orbs that are removed in rows of three, gems that are removed in two-by-two squares, blastoids that provide a blast, paradoxes that can appear when an object is blasted simultaneously from two sies, paradoxions that remove paradoxes, as well as disintegrators, teleports, and shifters that move or remove objects. Explosions either push things out (in the two-by-two case) or to the side (in the row case), although orb explosions push objects away from the last orb you placed which is very confusing at first.

Paradoxion is very difficult because there is usually only one solution and each puzzle requires perfection: getting every single step correct in the order the developer intended. Difficulty ramps up very quickly, as I started to have trouble in the tutorial. Later on, you can have puzzles with more than twenty steps; good luck getting them all right. Luckily, there are online solutions that will give step-by-step instructions for each of the 90 puzzles, but cheaters never win. I’ve played plenty of puzzle games, and I can honestly say that Paradoxion is the hardest one I’ve ever encountered. If you are looking for a puzzle game that just might make your brain melt, then look no further than Paradoxion. However, most everyone will find the game too difficult to be enjoyable.

Paradoxion is really freakin’ hard. The game is easy to understand and the overall design doesn’t impede your progress, but the perfection required by the game to pass each of the 90 levels is too much to ask. Paradoxion will exercise parts of your brain you didn’t know existed, at least before you quit in frustration. You really have to like challenging puzzle games to last past the first handful of boards, so the overall appeal of Paradoxion is limited. I will applaud the developers for creating a lot of very meticulously designed levels, so it’s clear a whole lot of though went in to Paradoxion. There is nothing inherently wrong with the design of Paradoxion, but it’s way too difficult for mass acceptance.