Impressions: Color Assembler

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.

6 Comments

  1. jrodman says:

    Useless typo comment:

    I had to read “… after about ten levels I started the game again, to reply those that I’d aimlessly stumbled through…” about five times to figure out it meant to say “replay”.

  2. Bernardo says:

    I don’t know which version you played, but the Steam version has an intuitive start that functions like a tutorial, and an options menu that just gives you plus and minus circles connected to the sound/resolution/… I’m not that far into it to say anything about difficulty.

  3. WombatDeath says:

    John, did you omit the usual link to the game because you forgot it, or because you are paying tribute to the game’s ethos of making its players work things out for themselves?

    If it’s the former, this comment is going to look ridiculous once you ninja-edit a link. Oh, the sacrifices I make for the gaming public. I am basically the greatest hero of our age.

    Also, your WIT of Loop didn’t get a lot of comments. RPS comrades: if you’ve read this far you probably like puzzle games, in which case buy Loop. It’s ace. Also it has lots of loops in it, which is nice. Not enough loops in games these days.

  4. zilhk says:

    Wow Color Assembler is really mind bending!
    There is a demo that can be downloaded from the official website.
    re: usual link

    And thanks to for pointing out to Loop, I just tried it and loved it :)

  5. zilhk says:

    (gosh I must have screwed up some XHTML tags in my previous post…)
    Anyway, here is the link to the

  6. LTK says:

    Holy cow, 84 levels of this? I’m 11 levels into the demo and it’s already becoming rather taxing. I commend them for putting out such an extensive demo, but it’s almost enough to ensure that anyone who isn’t a mental arithmetic enthusiast is going to have their fill of the game before it’s over. Although that might just be my limited attention span speaking. Still, I enjoyed what I played of it so far.