As is my wont of an early morning, I like to look through the new puzzle games appearing on Steam, in search of treats to share with you, my bestest internet friends. I’m not sure my pre-8am brain was quite ready for the extraordinary cheerfulness that occupies every moment of Prismatica [official site]. Ostensibly a game about rotating overlapping hexagons to move coloured tiles around, its real impact comes from the joyful bursts of colour and sound. Oh, such ludicrous joy.
It’s not an original concept by a long shot. It’s essentially a Rubik’s Cube concept, although on a far simpler 2D plane. But goodness me, if I don’t want to keep going through its puzzles more for the happiness it exudes. Although that does rather undersell just how nicely delivered the core concept is too.
A sign of a well executed puzzle game is having you know what to do without reading screens of text or watching it play itself for you. Prismatica nails this, starting off with puzzles so simple you can’t help but solve them, and then gradually leading you on a trail of breadcrumbs into the woods of trickiness. Except these woods are brightly coloured, with the Polyphonic Spree jumping out from behind trees.
During the levels, charming music plays, the bright colours of the rotating wheels flip about for you to sort, and time and moves count down. Complete it and it’s a chorus of delighted “LA LA LA-LA!”s as stars pop up, symbols crash and fireworks explode. The only problem is, so much do I enjoy the looping la-la song that I don’t want to click to start the next puzzle. Nor indeed click away from the game to write this, as it stops playing when it’s in the background. SADFACE. Oh, and more glorious – only do okay in a level, and you’ll get a subdued version of the same la-la song! Oh, I’m in love with that. (The only oddity is that menu buttons produce a discordant guitar pluck, which seems a wasted opportunity for even more aural brightness.)
But then goodness me, it gets tricky. Ten levels in to the first of four sets of 12, and it makes the mistake too many puzzle games fall into. It starts giving you a limit of moves in the 30s, and time in the minutes, and you realise it’s all become too unwieldy. A beautifully designed puzzle doesn’t need the number of moves to extend beyond 12, and by the time it does, the player is often left feeling too conscious that they can’t be planning ahead any more. While Prismatica lends itself a bit more toward experimental moves than some puzzles, that agoraphobia remains. It’s a shame, right up until you start the second pack of its puzzles, and it returns to trickiness crafted by limitations, not too much freedom. Then goes too loose again, and then finally finishes with puzzles of such mad complexity that you’ve got 200 moves and seven minutes. At that point it might as well abandon the limits and just acknowledge it’s entered full experimental territory.
Which is to say, it drifts from one sort of puzzle to another, within the same concept. Which type you’re after will certainly dictate how much you favour the game. For me – I’m happy when it’s at either extreme, rather than the woolly middle-ground. But saying that, I’m happy nearly all the time when it’s just so damned upbeat.
The presentation is so wonderful, the puzzles filling themselves in delightfully, subtle and effective animations making things feel lively and interesting, alongside the jubilation of its success screens (Peggle, eat your bloody heart out). At £3.19 (on Steam), you can’t really go wrong, even if you might end up giving up on some puzzles to move on to others. Or just re-completing the earlier ones so you can have it sing to you. Something I just did so my wife, son and I could dance around the landing to it. Can’t say a puzzle game has done that before.