Numblast

Something the Playstation Store is not short of is brick rotation games, but despite the abundance of great titles in the genre, ranging from the frantic Lumines through to the more sedately-paced Puzzle Quest games, when a game possessing the right formula comes along, there's still room for a little more block rearrangement. Numblast is the latest game to grant players the ability to achieve combo greatness on a grid of rotatable squares, in this case utilizing the numbers one to four, each with a distinct colour. By matching a two-by-two block with the same number, the squares will vanish, and be replaced by new ones, adding to the player's score. As with all the best puzzlers, it's a simple concept, but one that is backed up by incredible depth.

Numblast

The combo novelty in the game stems from the fact that, when a block of four numbers is matched, that number will count up by one. If neighbouring blocks are numbered such that a new block of four or more is created, then a combo begins. Setting off chains of blocks is key to gaining a good score and, much like Lumines, Tetris and the other big hitters to have gone before Numblast, it's tremendously addictive. The controls are incredibly simple (with basic rotation of two-by-two blocks clockwise or anti-clockwise being the full extent of player interaction. As time passes though, numbers across the grid will gradually darken to a black background, which begins to hamper rotation, until eventually the game is over. The time-pressure element forces an intense balance between quick rotations (to destroy blackened squares to be replaced by new ones) and the creation of complex combo chains. Spending too long figuring out exactly where each combo will evolve inevitably causes the player to run out of time.

There are three main modes available to play, sadly not including any multiplayer functionality. There is a standard marathon-style event, called Endless, which allows the player to simply aim for the highest score before all blocks are frozen, and this will likely be the biggest draw of the game. However, this is supported by a time trial mode, with a three-minute time limit, and, more importantly, a puzzle mode, with fiendish rotation limits with which the player must destroy all blocks on a pre-arranged grid. The latter mode is a great learning exercise, particularly since the time- limit threat is removed. All three modes have their merits, and vary the style of gameplay nicely. To mix things up further, there are also a couple of special blocks, including stars that will match any number, when required, and also blocks that change number each time they rotate. It's a relief that the novelty blocks stop there though, since many puzzle games suffer when a simple, clean gameplay concept is complicated and confused by an abundance of special or unique blocks. In this case, fortunately, the balance is very good.

Numblast

Sony's Japanese development arm saw fit to include a story to provide a little motivation for the game, featuring anime-style characters and a plot that is, quite honestly, barking. Bonkers story aside, it's the sort of thing that works well as a quirky Japanese puzzle title, and would be entirely forgiveable were it not for the absolutely atrocious American dub. Clearly the game is aimed at an audience with a wide age range, though some of the bizarre events in the story, combined with some tricky puzzling, suggest that perhaps in Japan this game isn't intended for the youngest gamers, and yet the voice acting in the version to hit UK stores suggests that all players should be about three years old. It's painful, annoying and relentless, but thankfully it can be switched off. A quick trip into the audio options will reveal that the speech volume can be turned down or, better yet, the voices can be changed to the original Japanese audio, an inclusion that perhaps suggests publishers Sony were aware of the insanely poor dubbing.

Audio relief aside, being brutally honest, Numblast is not as good as Lumines, nor can it compete with the excellent Puzzle Quest games. However, it's cheaper than both, and still provides superb puzzling action. With trophies included, featuring several that will keep even the most serious gamers challenged for some time (for example, reaching level 50 on the game's hard mode). A multiplayer mode, online or splitscreen, would have been lovely to see, and is certainly the most cruel omission, but it doesn't stop Numblast from being a very respectable, enjoyable game.

Game details

Game logo

Publisher:

Sony

Developer:

SCEJ

Players:

1

Online:

Rankings

Release:

2009-07-09

Trophies:

15

Review summary

Gameplay:

Another simple concept with layers of complexity

Graphics:

Nice, but simple, animation, with bold colours

Sound:

Rubbish, awful, annoying voice acting, gah!

Lastability:

Endless replay possibility, but with little incentive

6.2

Red Giant

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