April 18, 2005

Polarium, the newest addition to the expanding lineup of puzzlers for the DS, is really three games in one. It is a falling block game, but without the infinite addictiveness of Tetris. It’s also a short but devious set of mind-bending puzzles. Finally, it’s a multiplayer game that can only exist on the DS. Individually each of these is fun, but do they join together to form a cohesive game worth paying full price for?Polarium‘s core design is as basic as games get. Arrayed on the screen is a grid of square tiles, each either white or black. Drawing a line across tiles with the stylus selects them, and tapping again on the last highlighted tile makes all of the selected tiles reverse color. Turning a horizontal row to a solid color, either black or white, makes that line disappear. Though it may be possible to clear a screen by tapping on individual tiles a few at a time, the true feeling of grace and accomplishment is only achieved when one looping, twisting line is able to clear the entire screen.

That synopsis describes the bulk of gameplay, including the entire puzzle mode. Puzzle mode is the most intriguing section of the game. One hundred patterns of black and white tiles await challengers, most with a single elegant way to drag the stylus through and complete the round. For those who enjoy banging their heads against difficult challenges, there is little better in life than these arrays of little squares. The rest of us will enjoy the available mental crutches, including hints on every puzzle and a replay of the last failed attempt.

Unfortunately, diligent players will exhaust the 100 static puzzles far too quickly. That leaves the challenge mode, with its blistering difficulty and unrelenting rain of tiles. Challenges in this mode begin with a simple array of tiles to be cleared from the screen. As soon as those are out of the way, another few layers of tiles fall from the top of the screens, then another and anotherA

Score: 3/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.