Review: Master of Alchemy - Vengeance Front04 Apr 2013 0
You may think that Master of Alchemy - Vengeance Front is another one of those dull, soulless puzzle games that litter the App Store like so much used Kleenex. You’d be right, too, but there’s so much more.
Besides being mind-numbingly terrible, this ridiculously titled game is nothing less than a tablet version of the Ludovico Technique, minus the scratched corneas. Not since I installed the TurboTax app have I had such an aversion to my sad little iPad. In my stupor, I actually even considered reading a real book. Made of paper, no less!
So, is Master of Alchemy a complete and utter failure? Pretty much. While there is a puzzle game and a working physics engine here, the game lacks any heart or soul, and quickly becomes a rote exercise in tedium which is only magnified by the games rough edges.
Let’s begin with the basic premise of the game: get different colored dots into bowls. SpaceChem this ain’t. Now, this being alchemy and all, I think the dots are supposed to represent some generic element. Which elements? Who knows. There is no story or explanation of anything (which makes the “Vengeance Front” subtitle hilarious). The dots can be manipulated into liquids, solids or gasses which are really just differently shaped dots that either float upwards or flow/slide downwards. Any tutorial or explanation of what does what is done in splash screens before each level. Usually, the information shown on the splash screen has nothing to do with the level that follows it. Many of the splash screens are vague at best and completely opaque at worst. I seriously had to stare at one for minutes to discern what it was trying to tell me, only to find that the object it was showing me wasn’t on the next level anyway. Thanks for playing!
You have a few pieces of equipment at your disposal: a cannon that fires dots across the screen, an oven type thing that turns liquids into gasses. There’s no creative way to use them. That’s what they do, and all they do, and that’s about all you get. It took me until about level 30 (of 55) to get something other than the oven and cannon, and it was a color mixer. When a game expects that the ability to make purple dots from red and blue dots to be a game changer, we’ve got issues.
The environment looks the same for each level, with different hazards present here and there. These range from gates to buttons to patches of ice. They sound interesting, but their use is so obvious each level that you tend to take them for granted. The ability to place these objects on each level instead of them being pre-placed for you would have helped make the puzzles somewhat interesting.
I haven’t even mentioned the fact that there is no way to turn off the godforsaken music. No music controls. At all. At least the music is really good and doesn’t loop too often. Then again, maybe that wasn’t the music at all but the soft plink-plink-plink of my tears striking the iPad bezel. It was hard to tell the difference.
There is a standard “3-star” type system for each level, which seems to be obligatory for puzzle games these days. Again, the lack of any information hurts this as well. Why did I get bronze? What is the roman numeral after each level for? What are the gems for? None of it is explained. So, instead of encouraging you to try again and get that highest mark for each level, all this encourages is wishful thinking for the sweet release of a quick and painless death.
For the game to be successful at this point it would have to have some amazing level design, forcing you to creatively build Rube Goldberg machines out of these parts. It doesn’t. Each level is fairly simplistic and they all feel the same. Any difficulty comes from a new environment hazard showing up with no explanation and having to figure out how things work. That’s not a puzzle game, that’s a guessing game. A puzzle that is seemingly difficult to solve isn’t “clever” when the solution is hidden by a lack of knowledge. Hell, even a simple puzzler like Angry Birds explains what the birds do and then lets you come up with a solution to kill the pigs. Master of Alchemy gives you simple puzzles, but doesn’t explain how the world works. That’s not clever, that’s cheating and it sucks.