Like many others, I love a good puzzle game. As your atypical "gamer" (a middle-aged married women), I think it's fair to say that puzzlers are my favorite gaming genre. In recent years, companies like Pop Cap (the maker of such puzzle classics as Chuzzle, Insaneaquarium and the legendary Bejewled) have done much to advance and define the genre, creating titles that are as addictive as they are stylish. Recently, developer Flashbang Studios presented their latest offering in the puzzle space, Glow Worm. Puzzle fan that I am, I decided to give it a shot.
Any fan of puzzlers knows that the difference between an average puzzle game and a great puzzle game is how addictive it is. Do you see it in your head when you lay down to go to sleep? Find yourself humming the game's soundtrack in the shower? Make excuses to play for "just a few more minutes", as your family calls you down to dinner?
Glow Worm attempts to follow in this grand tradition, combining solid game play and visual elements. While the tile is enjoyable enough, the game's lack of a big payoff left me a bit disappointed. Before we get to that, though, let's talk about the game's mechanics.
Glow Worm features three play modes: classic, adventure, and puzzle. All three modes feature a similar play style, but have different goals. The basic idea of the game is to match up four same-colored caterpillars (which are handed to you by some freakishly huge caterpillar with an accent, perched on the edge of your screen) to make them "change". The catch is that they change to the color of their spots, so you have to be careful of which caterpillars you're putting together. What they change into is still a mystery: the game calls them butterflies, but they look like little dragonflies to me. No matter, the result is the same. After the caterpillars change, the player is confronted with a screen full of colorful winged bugs that you have to make disappear by, once again, matching up four of the same color.
When you load and begin the game, a strange voice from beyond (presumably the humongous friendly caterpillar host) suggests beginning in classic mode. In this mode, the goal is to rid the screen of the milky squares by, you guessed it, matching up colored caterpillars. There are also some caged caterpillars, which must be freed. Like all other puzzle games, the boards get increasingly more difficult, but never become frustrating. I finished classic mode in a day or two with the hopes of unlocking some "super classic mode", but was disappointed when none appeared. Still looking for some payoff for my hard work, I moved on to puzzle mode.
Puzzle mode is the trickiest of the modes. In puzzle mode, you have a choice of six screens, and once you beat four of them, six more screens open up. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out the game's criteria for finishing any given screen. It's one of the world's mysteries I suppose. This was by far my least favorite mode of play, so I gave up on it and tried adventure. It seems puzzle mode goes on forever, so I didn't finish all the screens.
One difference in puzzle mode is in color swapping. In classic and adventure modes, you can swap your caterpillar's colors by right-clicking. For instance, if you have a red caterpillar with blue spots, you can right-click, and presto-chango, you now have a blue caterpillar with red spots, thus opening up your possibilities of clever placement. In puzzle mode, however, the ability to color-swap is absent, making the game a little harder (but not much). If you ever fill up your screen with critters, you have to reload the screen and start over, something that only happened to me a couple of times.
Adventure mode sounded "mysterious". Not so much. Same game play. Same caterpillars. Same butterfly/dragonfly thingies. Even the same creepy, gigantic, top hat wearing French (or is it English?) caterpillar host passing out mini-caterpillars for my placement fun. I did find adventure to be my favorite way to play though for one important reason: in classic and puzzle modes, all the bugs stay put on the screen, whether you place them high or low. In adventure mode, however, the map has a sort of gravity, which pulls your bugs to the bottom of the screen. This made the game feel more like Tetris or some other traditional puzzle game. To beat a screen in adventure mode, the player must break all the bushes by making bugs disappear next to them. Like classic mode, I played all the way to the end, with the dim hope of some advanced adventure fun. Ah, disappointment strikes yet again.
In conclusion, Glow Worm certainly isn't a bad game, but I really wish that it had gone the extra mile. It filled up several enjoyable hours, but it's certainly not going to redefine the genre.
Gameplay-7 For a simple puzzle game, it played well. I didn't score higher, however, because of the lack of addiction that I'm used to in most puzzle games. The save feature was easy to use. There was nothing overly confusing about the game, the rules or the set-up. A school age child could play it reasonably well.
Graphics-6 Glow Worm only used four different backgrounds (one for each season). True, there isn't much a developer can really do with the graphics of a puzzle game, but compared to a title like Talismania or Insaneaquarium, the title looked a bit simplistic.
Audio-3 So far as I can tell, there were only three or four different songs for the entire game, all of which sounded like lullabies, and I often got sleepy playing the game. The other sound effects were simple, such as the chimes that play when your caterpillars change into "butterflies". Oh yeah, and we can't forget the gigantic caterpillar host guy who would occasionally pipe in when you do something well. He was like my cheerleader, but with a soothing, accented voice. I still can't place the accent. French? English?
Value-8 You can download this game for $19.95 and have all the Glow Worm fun you can choke on. Pretty standard for a game in this class. I felt it was worth the cost.
Curve-7 As a whole, Glow Worm is moderately entertaining, and after I put it down for a while, I may go back and play it over again. It doesn't have what it takes to be one of my favorite puzzlers – it really needed some sort of long-range goal or unlockable high-level content to really make it a challenge, but it does hold its own against the competition.