A smartly-crafted puzzle mechanic wrapped up in an interface that does more harm than good.

By Buckley, Posted 19 Mar 2011

To many puzzle game fans, Enigmo is not a new name. Pangea Software originally developed the game for Macintosh and Windows PC, which both saw their releases in 2003. Since then, Enigmo has made its way to the iPhone iOS in 2008, and Beatshapers now brings the title to us once again in the form of a PSP mini.

The physics-based puzzle mechanic is quite simple: Drops of liquid pour out of one container, and the player's job is to guide the drops into another container. On a given stage, there are a myriad of obstacles in the way from restrictive walls to locked doors that can only be opened when appropriate buttons are hit by the liquid drops. In order to circumvent these obstacles, the player is given several tools including slides, nozzles, sponges, splitters, and bumpers. When these tools are placed at the proper location and angle in a pseudo-Rube Goldberg fashion, the puzzle is solved.

Enigmo screen 1

But while the puzzle mechanic is simple, the game's interface has a tendency of making things rather difficult. Refrain from immediately choosing the "Start New Game" option when beginning Enigmo for the first time, because there is no tutorial to be found. You will also learn that the control scheme is quite confusing at the onset. Consequently, your best bet is to hop immediately to the "Help" option, where you will be shown a map of the PSP with control descriptions for every button on the device. Continue past that screen and read the whole thing, because you'll need to know it all to make sense of any puzzles once you're ankle deep in the game.

Yes, the learning curve is steep, and it will likely scare off many casual gamers, who should be the primary audience for this title. A manual-like help screen would have been perfectly appropriate in 2003, and I'm sure that it's acceptable on an iPhone, especially three years ago. But today, a simple tutorial system at the start of the game would have gone a long way to make Enigmo much more playable, particularly on a platform whose primary focus is for gaming like the PSP.

Once you are more accustomed to the controls, Enigmo does become enjoyable. The first ten levels of the fifty available are not too frighteningly difficult, while still evoking a feeling of satisfaction once solved. But venturing beyond that can become daunting. When the solutions become more complex, moving an object one pixel in the wrong direction can completely destroy a would-be solution. Here is where Enigmo's control scheme and lack of tutorial once again rear their ugly heads, as heaven forbid you press the wrong button at the wrong time, moving an object out of its formerly-perfect position. Be prepared to spend many minutes simply undoing an errant button press. And unfortunately, there is no way to save the progress of a level and return to it. You either solve it all at once, or not at all.

Enigmo screen 2

There is a scoring system, though it seems misguided. Instead of starting with a score of zero, you start with a large number of points that differs between stages. While playing, the score ticks down like a timer. The faster you solve the puzzle, the higher your score. Wouldn't it have been much simpler to just use a timer? The lowest time wins? And along these lines, there is a scoring leaderboard, but it is utterly pointless. That is, unless you really care how your score (designated as * YOU * of course) compares to the likes of LIQUID DROPLET, PUZZLE BRAIN, and MIND BENDER. They probably won't notice, themselves.

There is yet one more potentially-debilitating interface issue to watch for. When greeted with the first menu screen of Enigmo, unless you are playing for the first time, do not pick the "Start New Game" option. If you do so, it will restart all of your progress from day one, re-locking all of the unlocked levels you have worked so hard for. I am not so sure why someone would want to do this. That would be similar to providing a menu option in Fallout 3 that deletes all of your saved games.

Enigmo screen 3

The presentation of the game is otherwise attractive. The 2D gameplay has a 3D feel to it, as each of the objects has a polygonal depth. Regardless, the framerate never seems to hiccup. Enigmo is accompanied by a soothing, beat-less ambient soundtrack, but you might not ever know it because the sound effects are much louder. You might actually find yourself turning the volume way down, if not off altogether, because the sound of the liquid droplets bouncing off of all of the surfaces and activating the doors can get mind-numbing on a long stage. Fortunately, the sound really has no effect on the effectiveness of the puzzle mechanic, and Enigmo is perfectly playable in silence.

If you are looking for a puzzle game that isn't the obligatory "fit-blocks-together" routine, Enigmo is worth a look. And it won't cost much at $3.99 from the Playstation Store. Even better, if you are a PS Plus subscriber, it's free. However, be prepared for a potentially frustrating learning curve and some time-consuming puzzles that you will not have the option to start now and return to later. Enigmo is the case of a smartly-crafted puzzle mechanic wrapped up in an interface that does more harm than good. If the idea of Enigmo sounds like an attractive one, go ahead and seek it out, but this may not be the platform to play it on.

Matt Buckley, NoobFeed

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General Information



Platform(s): PC, Mobile
Publisher(s): Pangea Software, Beatshapers
Developer(s): Pangea Software, Beatshapers
Genres: Puzzle
Themes: Puzzle
Release Date: 2011-03-15

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