Unlike most Palm games, Mazera is a continuous adventure game based on finishing a quest as opposed to merely amassing a high score. But is that quest worth a complete play through and the price of admission?
The player takes control of a fox-haired character named Ix. At an early age, an alien race (the Mazerians) kidnapped Ix and used him as a display in their alien zoo. Desiring freedom, Ix discovers a strange plant growing in his habitat. After eating its fruit, his quest for freedom ensues.
Mazera is a puzzle-based adventure game that plays from an overhead viewpoint. The easiest way to describe Mazera is to recognize the similarity between itself and the popular Zelda series. However, where Zelda enjoyed a heavy influence through combat, Mazera is strictly puzzle based. Ix never wields a weapon or utilizes items to help aid his adventure, hence, Mazera plays more similarly to Chip’s Challenge than Zelda.
Instead of making a puzzle game composed of different rooms, Mazera is one big quest. Players must collect keys to unlock doors, and solve puzzles to advance. The game takes the player’s side by offering an unlimited number of continues. If Ix happens to die, he can immediately restart and try again in the same room where he met his demise – this certainly helps alleviate frustration.
The game can be controlled with either the stylus or the four-way direction pad. When using the stylus, Ix will automatically move to the point of contact with the screen. However, this form of movement will most likely have Ix running into wall and hazards. Therefore, using the four-way directional pad will probably better suit most players.
Most of the game’s puzzles involve a box in some way. Moving boxes to clear a path or preventing an enemy from attack Ix is the gameplay norm. These box puzzles offer a strong brain tease, but they can eventually become repetitive and unappreciated. Perhaps the game’s puzzles could have been enhanced if some type of weapon had been introduced. The absence of even basic combat makes the game feel somewhat incomplete. A simple sword slash or a shot of an arrow could have made the game much more enjoyable. Enemies could then be defeated and different types of puzzles could be solved. It is a shame that the only input the player has over Ix is through directional movement.
The tiled-based graphical structure looks extremely nice on the Palm’s screen. Each on-screen sprite is very bright and displays a wide range of color. Character animation also retains a high amount of quality. The game easily conveys the same amount of graphical prowess as the majority of Game Boy Color games. But it is still a wonder why Ix has a haircut that looks like a fox’s tail – and no evident explanation, either. It would have been nice to see a little more movement in the background, as only a single blade of grass will twitch or a simple light will flicker, but the well-detailed tiled sprites are more than acceptable for a Palm game. The only negative aspect of the game’s graphics engine is character positioning. It can often be difficult to judge exactly where Ix, a box, or an enemy is placed. This can often result in unnecessary deaths. But thanks to the infinite retry feature, this is only a minor flaw.
The game’s musical score is also quite impressive. Plus, there are 30 minutes of composed music. That’s a hefty feature considering this is one palm game that can be played for extended periods of time.
Besides the lack of weapons and item usage, Mazera’s next biggest downfall is its lack of direction. The game never offers the player a clue on where to travel next. Some type of hint system or a guide would have been a helpful feature as players might find themselves wasting time in needless backtracking and frustrating exercises in trial and error.
Flaws aside, Mazera is still a wholly decent game. Though it doesn’t possess the fun factor of a Zelda game, the puzzle adventure idea works well on a Palm handheld. The graphics and musical quality rise well above average and are easily the game’s strongest selling points. But the lack of weaponry, items, combat, and directional indicators decreases Mazera’s point value. Palm owners looking for a quest-based game rather than a game motivated by high scores need look no further than Mazera. It is definite fun in its own sweet way; just don’t expect the same quality as Zelda.