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Pangea Software
Release Date

April 4, 2003 | Eddie Park

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The puzzle game genre is one that's been around long before computer games ever existed. Though their transition to a digitized state was inevitable, titles that fall under the genre rarely shine in the mainstream light, preferring instead to spread slowly but surely into the hands of gamers looking for an interesting diversion that doesn't involve saving the girl or slaughtering masses of demons in a bid for world peace.

Occasionally, however, a puzzle title does manage to hog the spotlight, infecting gamers all over the globe with productivity-killing addictiveness that eventually causes mid-level managers to ban the game from the workplace. Tetris immediately springs to mind, though there have been other time-eaters both before and after.

Fortunately, (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view), Pangea Software is currently working on one of those rare puzzle titles that could cause gamers to put down their miniguns in favor of bumpers, slides, and sponges. Titled Enigmo, this game could have what it takes to push its way to the forefront of Mac puzzle gaming.

Chinese water torture
The premise of Enigmo, like most good puzzle games, is one of simplicity. Players will be presented with a level that consists of a basic platform structure of some sort, along with any number of reservoirs and containers. Each reservoir spews forth an endless stream of liquid in the form of drops, which players must then direct into the correct containers. Once each container hits 50 drops, the level is completed and the player can move on.

To assist in the direction of the streams, each level presents players with a set of devices with which to work. While not as varied as a title like The Incredible Machine (which Enigmo will no doubt draw comparisons from), the devices provided are more than adequate to the task. Players will be able to choose from a variety of bumpers, slides, accelerators, and sponges, each with their own characteristics. Bumpers, as their name suggests, have the ability to bounce water droplets off their surfaces. Bumpers come in a variety of shapes and colors, with each one possessing various bounce characteristics, ranging from "small bounce" to "launch into the stratosphere." Slides are simply solid platforms that can be discriminately moved and placed. Accelerators look like a ray gun of sorts, and will spit out any liquid that enters the back end at a high velocity. The sponge collects liquid and will begin to leak once it reaches a sufficient saturation point. To add more control to the mix, each part can be freely rotated as well as moved around and placed at will.

Of course, the above task would be mundane at best if that's all there was to it. Thankfully, the fiendish minds at Pangea have conspired to make things a bit spicier. First of all, a mad engineer was obviously hired to construct the levels and place the reservoirs and containers in the very places that logic would dictate they should not go. This makes each basic level structure a puzzle in and of itself, and players may find themselves mulling over the overall structure of a level for a few moments before making a move.

To offset things even more, there are three types of liquids in the game, including water, oil, and lava. To make things easier, each one is color-coded, and I usually just thought of them as blue, yellow, and red. Of course, each liquid must end up in a container of the same color, and to make things more interesting, containers aren't entirely watertight, meaning they'll slowly lose accumulated drops if a constant stream fails to fall into their frustratingly tiny mouths. What this means is that players who attempt to fill up one container before rearranging their parts to fill another will be out of luck. I know this, because I speak from long-suffering experience.

As if this weren't enough, other devices with no discernable explanations will also appear to challenge players. Some levels will have reservoirs that will only dispense liquid if a button located elsewhere on the level is firmly pressed, meaning that players have to figure out a way to ricochet a stream off said button while still directing that stream into the appropriate container. Other levels will boast colored gates that can only be opened if a stream passes through a hoop of matching color. Of course, the previously mentioned mad engineer seems to have had a hand in the placement of such devices as well, making for some teeth-gnashing puzzlement.

Adding more than a little pressure to the game, a bonus timer quickly ticks gleefully away at a speed roughly the equivalent of an F-14 while you sit there scratching your head and playing the part of a puzzle monkey. While it's not necessary to finish the puzzle within the bonus limit, it is the only way to generate a semblance of a score. The bonus timer runs out quickly too, with the longest one seeming to last no longer than 20 seconds or so. As for how I fared against its evil influence, let's just say that my score remained firmly stuck on the same number from level 4 onward. Not that I'm ashamed or anything. Even if it does seem like the bonus timer was laughing at me the whole time.

Once players finish with the 50 levels provided with Enigmo, they can move on to the included level editor. Incredibly easy to use, the editor allows for creating a level via a simple drag and drop process. Creators are given a list of both static and dynamic parts and can place and rotate them as they wish. Created levels can also be ordered however one pleases, meaning that particularly industrious creators could conceivably create a whole new 50-level game of their own design, hopefully making the mad engineer look sane by comparison.


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