Monday, March 22, 2010

Bob Came in Pieces Review

Bob Came in Pieces, developed and published by Ludosity Interactive.
The Good: Custom ship design, varied physics-based puzzles
The Not So Good: Must like platform and puzzle games, fourteen missions go by too quickly, linear enough to discourage replay, really only three ship components
What say you? A platform game highlighted by ship design used for puzzle solutions: 6/8

I’m really terrible at Super Mario Brothers. I can do the first couple of levels of the newest Wii version, but I have yet to get past the end of World 1. Yeah, so platform games are not my forte, but I do tend to review them assuming they offer some unique feature beyond simple running and jumping and death (I specialize in the third option). Bob Came in Pieces comes with one killer features to accompany some physics-based puzzle mayhem: custom ship design. Platform games notoriously suffer from repetitive, linear play, so one would assume that an injection of customization would prove to be beneficial. Is it?

For an independent game, Bob Came in Pieces looks decent enough. The game features 3-D graphics, although the game is played in two-dimensions. The environments are varied, but the textures could use more detail than a simple solid color. Some of the objects have some interesting designs, but a lot of the in-game objects are blocky. The effects are few, although fire and the rockets glow convincingly. The sound design is also very basic, with no voiced dialogue and acceptable effects and music. Bob Came in Pieces doesn’t look as good as some other indie games, but graphics don’t make the game, so I’m not disappointed.

Poor Bob. Seems his ship done got blowed up, scattered all across a strange world populated with crates, boxes, seesaws, and fans. It’s your job to guide his ship, find the missing parts, and leave this exotic land. I’ll start out with ship customization, which ended up being surprisingly limited because you are only given three essential parts: pipes, rockets of varying power, and push and pull beams for moving objects. You can use these to make any kind of arrangement you can dream of, but more varied items and abilities would have produced a more interesting game in the end. You must balance your design (so you don’t tip over) and you can choose the keys used for each of your eight attachment points. Items are collected along the way, so you are restricted somewhat in how many pipes and rockets you can use. Still, I was expecting more diversity in this area of the game, especially because it’s the main draw.

Bob Came in Pieces consists of fourteen levels that are all well designed. You’ll progress through them quickly if you don’t intensively search each and every corner of each and every level. Each puzzle contains things such as burning twigs (obviously), seesaws, doors, crates, balls, conveyor belts, rocks, and fans, using physics to produce solutions. The key is to figure out what the puzzle wants and then go back in time and design your ship. As you can tell from my snarky comment, there is some luck and trail and error associated with making a successful design, and there will undoubtedly be some (a lot) of restarting before you clear a particular challenge. There is usually one clear way to accomplish a task, and it’s just a matter of designing your ship and then executing the design. This means there is little value in replaying a particular level once you have finished it, and with the small array of components at your disposal, coming up with a dramatically different solution is a rare occurrence. Still, Bob Came in Pieces offers gameplay above and beyond your typical platform or puzzle title, so there is certainly a reason to play it for fans of either (or both) genres.

Bob Came in Pieces offers some nice physics-based puzzles placed around custom ship designs to solve the various conundrums placed in front of you. Despite the premise of custom ship design, the limited number of elements (pipes, rockets, and push/pull beams) means most of your creations will end up accomplishing the same thing, just in different directions. There is also a lot of guessing as to what exact configuration you need for the next level: you might end up retrying levels several times before getting the setup right. That said, the game does feel unique, thanks to some innovative puzzles and full freedom to use your admittedly limited tool set as you desire. The fourteen levels are over too quickly, and future expansions (wink wink) would hopefully add more content for ship design. Most of the puzzle elements require one solution, so it’s a matter of making a good design and controlling your ship. This linearity tends to cut down on replay value, but Bob Came in Pieces is certainly fun while it lasts. If you like platform and puzzle games, the ship design of Bob Came in Pieces delivers $10 worth of unique fun.