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Publisher: Pangea Software    Genre: Puzzle & Trivia
Min OS X: 10.3.1    CPU: G4 @ 800 MHz    RAM: 256 MB    Hard Disk: 35 MB    Graphics: 32 MB VRAM

Enigmo 2
March 15, 2006 | Richard Hallas

Click to enlarge
Pangea Software has established for itself an enviable reputation for its high quality, family-friendly and (mostly) Mac-only games over the last few years, but amid a string of excellent releases, many consider Enigmo to be the pièce de résistance. This highly intelligent and compelling puzzle game presents players with an original and captivating challenge: to guide droplets of water, oil and lava from emitters into containers by means of bumpers, slides, sponges and various other components. Any reader who doesn't know what the original Enigmo was all about is strongly encouraged to read IMG's review and download the demo; it's still a fantastic game, regardless of the fact that its successor has now appeared, and although the concept is not entirely without precedent, it remains one of the most interesting and original games you can buy. IMG's Enigmo review score of 9.25 says it all: it's a hard act to follow.

Enigmo 2 is advertised as taking the original Enigmo concept to a whole new dimension. In literal terms, that is in fact true, even though it sounds like marketing hype! But perhaps it would be fairer to say that the game takes the next logical step that players could have anticipated. Enigmo had a 3D graphics engine but only allowed the game to be played in two dimensions. Enigmo 2 is essentially the same game with a few enhancements, with the major change being that the 3D graphics engine is now matched by a truly 3D playing environment. You no longer have just a straight-on view of the puzzle area: you can view it from any angle and, more importantly, the various objects in the game can move in any of the three dimensions.

Expanded universe
Before going on to discuss the changes and enhancements that are involved in the leap to a fully-3D game environment, let's take a brief look first at what other aspects of the game are new, for the benefit of fans of the original Enigmo.

The main, and most obvious, change is that the three types of substances in the game are different. Water has survived intact from the original, but Enigmo's green oil and red lava particles have transmuted into purple plasma particles and red laser beams in the new game. On the positive side, these are much more visually interesting than the three quite similar substances in the original, and behave in very different ways from one another. But on the negative side, they no longer interact with each other in any way, a point that I'll discuss below.

A couple of objects in the original game have actually vanished from the sequel: the short slide and the sphere block. Neither is any real loss. The short and long slides are replaced by a single gutter in Enigmo 2, which is really all that's needed. As for the sphere block, I suspect that it has been removed because its presence would have made the behavior of particles too chaotic in a genuinely three-dimensional environment.

All of the other elements in the original game are still present; some of their names have changed slightly, but they look similar and behave in the same way. To the existing mixture of components have been added magnetic spheres (specifically for diverting plasma particles by magnetic influence), mirrors (used to divert laser beams), gravity inverters (which reverse the direction of water droplets), teleporters (which take in particles and emit them elsewhere) and spherical force-fields (along with rotating shield tubes, through which particles must pass before the force-fields will disappear).

These are all worthwhile features which add useful variety and interest to the basic Enigmo mix. In virtually every other way, though, the new game is identical in behavior to its predecessor. Like the original, there are fifty levels, each one presenting a puzzle of gradually increasing difficulty, and there's a thoroughly comprehensive level editor built into the game with which you can design your own level sets. Pangea has a downloads page in place to host new level sets as they appear, and it's to be hoped that players get cracking and design some good challenges for others to play. At the time of writing, the first player-created level set has just appeared (and very good it is, too).

Interfacing in three dimensions
Clearly, a major challenge for Pangea in the design of Enigmo 2 was to find a way for the player to interact with the game easily in three dimensions. The control system needed to be as simple to use as possible whilst being sufficiently flexible so as to allow fine control over the positioning of the pieces.

I'm pleased to say that these aims have been achieved well, for the most part at least. In the original Enigmo, pieces could be dragged around in two dimensions with the mouse, and when a piece was selected, a control ring would appear around it which, when dragged, would alter the angle of the piece. In Enigmo 2, exactly the same principles apply: the only real difference is that you must change your angle of view of the piece before you can drag it in the third dimension. In other words, if you need to move a piece in or out from your current viewpoint, you must first rotate your viewpoint so that the in/out direction becomes left/right or up/down.

Luckily, the viewing controls are very easy to use; assuming you have a decent multi-button mouse, anyway! (You can use a single-button mouse or trackpad in conjunction with the keyboard if you must, but a more capable device is strongly recommended.) The controls are simple: the main mouse button is used to select, move and manipulate pieces, whilst the other two buttons spin the viewpoint and pan the camera, and the scroll control zooms the view in and out as expected.

As for manipulating pieces in the game, this too is just like in the original Enigmo by default: click a piece and a control ring will appear around it which, when dragged, will alter the piece's angle of rotation. The difference in Enigmo 2 is that the pieces can be rotated in three dimensions, so the plane of rotation adjusted by the ring around the piece depends, again, on the current viewing angle.

This can sometimes present a bit of a problem, though. If you need to alter the rotation of a piece in two planes, you may have to spin your view around several times before you get the angles just right, and that's a bit of a nuisance. There is therefore a helpful configuration choice that allows you to turn on separate rings for all three planes of rotation at once. If this is enabled, when a piece is selected it will be enclosed within a sphere comprised of three colored control rings (red, green and blue). You can drag these to adjust the piece's angle of rotation regardless of viewing direction. I personally found this to be a very helpful feature, and left it turned on all the time.

The option has two minor drawbacks: first of all, the presence of three rings can make it quite tricky to select the piece itself for dragging, and secondly, depending on the viewing angle, it can sometimes be easy to drag on the wrong ring by accident. However, this is less of a problem if you can play the game in a high-resolution screen mode with plenty of detail, so I found this interface option to be a real help. My only other quibble with it is that it's a nuisance with magnetic spheres. These are (unsurprisingly enough) spherical, and hence never need to be rotated, so the game could usefully make a special case of them and not show the three rotation rings around them. It already makes a special case of sponges and (in the editor) water emitters, which can be rotated in just one direction, so why not magnetic spheres, too?


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