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Impressions: Color Assembler

Shapely

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It’s a bold move when your options screen requires a working understanding of your game mechanics. Bold, and daft. But I’m going to forgive Color Assembler this enormity purely because its ataraxic atmosphere lulls me back into a state of imperturbable calm. I’m even forgiving how bloody confusing it is.

The goal in each puzzle is to create a sort of element thing that matches the target. The target may, for instance, have three large triangles, two large and one small square, and one small circle. You need to construct a matching configuration by attaching elements of varying contents to a blank central node which, depending on its shape, compiles shapes cumulatively, takes on an average of the shapes from those that are connected, or oh dear are you still with me? Thank goodness for its calming ways indeed.

What makes this all the more peculiar is that I’ve just given you an infinite amount more information about what the game’s about than the game itself. As I mentioned, so obfuscated are its tasks that you need to already know how to interact with it (click on the connecting chain to break a bond, for instance) to begin interacting with the options. Want to turn the music volume down? You need to detach one or more of the volume plus elements. Good gravy.

So bemused was I by what it was actually asking me to do that after about ten levels I started the game again, to reply those that I’d aimlessly stumbled through, trying to get a more solid grip on what was actually happening.

Oh, I should mention, I love it for all this.

Not every game needs to be immediately lucid for the player. Sometimes it’s good to stumble, to not quite understand. Not often, certainly, and in the wrong sort of game, it’s a complete disaster. But in a deliberately opaque puzzle game, it’s interesting to see that obscurity written across its entirety.

It is, however, not in the game’s favour that even when running in a window, it struggles to cope with task switching. Freezing up, and occasionally eventually unfreezing, it does at least maintain your progress between induced crashes. If you’re as flighty a person as me, who plays puzzle games while conducting 17 IM conversations and reading about the infiltration habits of the cuckoo bumblebee, then that’s a proper snag.

It’s also a little wayward once you’re 20 or so levels in, with averaging hexagons linking to cumulative stars, perhaps six or seven separate elements involved, trying to work out the average of 3 + 2 + 3.5 across five nodes, in your head, and then guessing which way it’s rounding for that, at the same time as combining it with another averaging hexagon, and it can all start to feel a little overwhelming. With 84 levels, I dread to imagine what complications are to come. However, it’s all laid out so simply and elegantly that there’s absolutely nothing else getting in the way other than the complexity of the puzzles themselves (unless you count the options menu). That there are nine shape types in total makes me want to hide and quiver in a corner. I think this game may extend somewhat beyond my ability.

But if you’re after a tough challenge, then this is a superbly relaxing environment, encasing a deeply tricky concept.

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John Walker

Senior Editor

One of the original co-founders of Rock, Paper, Shotgun, I'm now a senior editor and hero of humanity. Old and special.

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