Review: Enigmo: Explore26 Feb 2014 0
Enigmo: Explore is the third in a series of physics-based puzzlers (a genre for which we need a better name, and don't suggest PBPs, I already thought of that and it's so clunky even I won't use it), though it's my first in the series. The central element of the game is a dripping faucet -- the bane of insomniacs. Redirecting the flow of those drips into a bottle, using only the tools provided and within the time allowed, delivers the sort of neurotransmitter payload which leaves you starting a new level before you've even consciously entertained the possibility of stopping.
There are a variety of tools you can drag onto each level, but most of them are disks which reflect the flow of the water with varying degrees of bounce. As a result, most levels are effectively mazes you can only traverse in parabolic arcs, with a limited number of changes in direction and a need to maintain momentum for any long vertical moves. It's not a complicated set of constraints, but it's adequate to afford the creation of many puzzles of different degrees of challenge, especially once multiple water sources and bottles are added. These challenges largely break down into three overlapping varieties: accomplish the goal with fewer tools than you'd like, set up precision reflections, and simply move quickly enough to deploy the many needed tools in the time available.
That last variety of frantic motion is not to my taste, and seems at odds with the cerebral nature of the rest of the game. I grant that the display of the timer is brilliant: salient but not distracting, with clear delineations of the borders between one-, two-, and three-star times. However, the added replay value does not seem worth the time pressure given my expectations about the interests of those who seek such puzzles. Part of the problem is that time pressure exacerbates any issues one has with the interface, and Enigmo: Explore has a serious problem with objects with which you can't interact blocking access to those with which you can. So, on top of feeling like I'm back in remedial RTS class, trying to get my actions per minute up to snuff, the more complicated levels have me cursing at the placement of a wall just where I need to be touching the rotation control for a nearby bounce pad. This is really pretty awful on the phone--I very quickly put the possibility of playing on the smaller screen out of my mind.
It's often possible to trade off the use of more tools or more time with more precise use of tools. They have included a wonderful method of getting greater precision in rotating the tools, by pulling the rotation control away from the object and thus having a longer lever to turn it, but it takes time to use. Worse, the more distant your target, the longer it takes to get feedback, but the longest traversals are usually the most in need of precise aim.
The tradeoff between tools used, good planning, and precise aim seem perfectly balanced to lead to challenges to complete levels with fewer tools. I'd have much preferred the game if it awarded stars based on this basis rather than time to completion. This seems like such a clearly preferable option that there must be good reasons to have used the timer instead, possibly including not everyone having my preferences.
Despite these problems, I really get a charge out of solving most of these puzzles. It's challenging to imagine how a deep-seated delight in the construction of complicated, implausible devices could have benefitted my evolutionary predecessors, but it's right there with my reptilian brain. I want warmth, food, sex, and Rube Goldberg contraptions, and if they have the Grand Canyon or an active volcano in the background, I won't argue.