December 18, 2008

Review: Meteos Wars

The original Meteos was released three years ago for the DS and I'm sorry I missed it. I know it's saying a lot, but this new version for the XBL Arcade is probably the best puzzle game I've ever played. I must say, nobody makes puzzle games like Q and Popcap. While I do love me some Bejeweled, I have to give the edge to Q for coming up with a phenomenal puzzler.

As far as I'm concerned, Meteos is leaps and bounds above Q's other megahit puzzle game Luminies. Meteos certainly has style, atmosphere, and, oddly enough, a fairly well-crafted story. It sounds strange that a puzzler would have a story that's not just tacked on, but it makes sense in context. The simple of it is: there's this evil planet called Meteos that launches these meteor things at planets until the planet accumulates so many that it crushes under its own weight. It's your job to save said planets by blasting those meteors to outer space.

That's where the brilliant gameplay comes in. You've got your standard puzzle grid full of blocks that fall from the sky periodically. You can move your cursor around and highlight various columns of blocks with the right stick and use the left stick to change the block's position in the row. Blocks can only be moved up or down a column and you can't highlight rows. If you match three of the same blocks vertically or horizontally, they become thrusters and launch themselves and all the blocks stacked on top into space. The thruster block(s) become ash and eventually turn back to regular blocks if they don't quit make it all the way off screen. Of course, there's a lot more to it and you'll soon realize the gameplay is a lot deeper than you realize.

What's really interesting about Meteos is that each planet is totally unique with its own backstory, blocks, inhabitants, and music. You'll soon find out that each planet actually plays very differently from the others. Blocks fall onto the board to the rhythm of the music which changes depending on the race you play as. Gravity also changes which cad dramatically change the gameplay by making blocks harder or easier to launch.

It's hard to descried the gameplay without seeing it. It looks like this. Also, notice the "devastating" laser.

In Meteos Wars, the main premise is to do battle with opposing planets (which is also exactly how the multiplayer works). Your objective is to blast your blocks into space where they will then fall onto your opponents grid as those ash blocks. Simple, yet brilliant. If one or more of your columns becomes full with blocks, you loose, so you basically must fill your opponents grid with blocks before he fills yours. New in this version (I think) are bombs and special attacks. Sometimes your special attacks can be useful, like dropping a hail of useless blocks on your enemy's grid. Other times, I don't see the point. There's one in particular that blasts lasers at your foe which clears entire columns of blocks. I find it particularly helpful when someone uses this on me. Likewise, the bombs simply destroy blocks on your grid. I don't quit understand how these seek to punish you by helping. The only thing I can think of is that it prevents you from shooting more blocks at the other guy. You can also speed up time which, according to the game, somehow helps you win. All it does for me is fill up my grid with bricks faster. Granted, a few gameplay mechanics seem backwards, but they really don't detract from the overall experience.

The game has a Vs. CPU mode if you don't feel like playing against other people. The multiplayer portion supports local, ranked matchmaking, and unranked. There are a few challenge modes to see how much of a score you can rack up with given constraints or how fast you can clear the board. The six stage mission mode puzzled me at first (no pun intended) because it was so short. I was just getting the hang of things on easy and it took me all of twenty minutes. Now I see that the game becomes brutal on harder difficulties. I haven't been able to beat it on normal. Maybe I'm not good enough, or maybe the computer is too good. Either way, there's a ton of planets to unlock by playing it if you ever get through.

Meteos takes the style of Q's other game Luminies and adds far better gameplay for what I can only describe as the ultimate addicting puzzle experience. If you like puzzle games, don't give this one a second thought. $15? What a steal! Now if you'll excuse me, I have to hunt down a copy of Meteos for the DS.

Visuals: 9- Beautifully colorful in HD.
Controls: 8- Controls well. I can see how it was made to be played on a touch screen.
Gameplay: 10- Simply my favorite puzzle gameplay ever.
Sound: 9- Effects are great and music is typical Q. (That's a good thing.)
Replay Value: 10- Until you get bored of it which is basically never.

Overall: 9.5/10
Intelligent design and unparalleled style make this one of the greatest puzzle games ever made.

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