Geon (PS3)

Puzzlers are odd.
Geon is no different.
Find out quite how odd, and also if odd can be good originally published at Acegamez.

read the full review text below the cut:

Geon

When Geon: Emotions first appeared on the Xbox Live Arcade, it was hailed as a decent arcade puzzle game with a few flaws. A year later and it’s arrived on the PlayStation Network, with some significant if minor alterations, least of all being the name, which has been shortened to simply Geon.

The game at first seems almost laughably simple and the amusingly short but informative tutorial does little to dispel such thoughts. On an almost psychedelic colour-frenzy of a screen you control a small Geon cube, tottering and hopping around a transparent grid-based map, picking up the tiny pellets dotted in the centre of each tiny square while listening to the unobtrusive background music. When you have enough pellets, the alarms go off to remind you to you flip over to the other side of the grid, by jumping off an outer edge, then you hit the central goal-spot to score. Do this five times and you’ve won. In case you are beginning to think that the game seems too simple, it swiftly becomes anything but; you need to collect a fifth of the pellets on the map in order to score a point and they range not only in size but in shape and composition as well. To further complicate matters, some maps feature nooks and crannies, raised areas and even moving parts.

Because even that premise is blatantly far too easy, you’re also pitted against another player who’s operating on the underside of your board and trying to score before you do, forcing you to work as fast as you can. There is also the question of combat, as there isn’t much point in having a two-player battle if you can’t adversely affect your opponent in some way. In the PS3 incarnation of Geon, there are a few new ways to cause problems for your adversary, the simplest of which is to make use of the first main extra move – the jump. Best used to travel quickly across the grid, the jump key can also be double-tapped, causing your dainty little cube to smack the ground with enough force to affect a good area around it. If you can catch the opposing player in your ground zero then they spew out about half of their collected pellets back to their original squares, forcing them to start collecting again. Naturally this attack can be used against you, so a sharp eye is needed to watch for the impending doom on the other side of the map. Luckily the grid is clear enough to make it obvious when this is going to happen once you have been on the receiving end a few times and the attacks need to recharge after each use. Even if you are in the unlucky quake-site of an enemy attack, you still have another card to play; hitting the circle button grants you a few brief seconds of electric shielding that protects you from the damage if you time it just right. Like the crash attack, the shield must recharge after use, making these two basic attack and defence tools a highly tactical choice. If your shield is low and the enemy is near then do you attack now and risk missing him only to be stung yourself or flee to another part of the grid? It adds a flavour of panic to the game that was missing before.

Were that the entirety of the strategy, we could label this a distracting little puzzler and call it a day; however, the game has an ace up its sleeve. Before you begin each map, you choose an ‘Emotion’ to play during the match. These present themselves as powerballs that can be collected by your Geon, giving you a small speed increase, and used at your leisure. They break down more or less into two categories: attacking and scavenging. Both can be very useful and, dependent on the map, different choices should be made. Another key factor is the choice of Emotion made by your opponent, as only one player can use a particular powerball per match, so if your preferred bonus is already taken then you need to choose something that can either outmatch it or make you a damn sight better at collecting.

The scavenging emotions or Greed, Bliss, Passion and Hyper are useful for the combat-wary and can make the difference between winning or losing. Take for example the Greed emotion; when activated, your Geon spins rapidly, sucking up nearby pellets until either it runs out or you hit saturation point and it’s time to head to your goal. Similarly, others can conjure up helpful extra cubes to collect even more pellets or give you speed boosts. The attacking emotions are more complex; Frustration leaves traps on the opposing side of the grid, shooting the enemy Geon up into the air or down a hole, others leave trails of electrified squares behind you or shoot a barrage of spikes through the map with Rage, smashing out your opponent’s pellets. Naturally some of the attacking bonuses can be defended against with the shield but many are unavoidable inconveniences, such as Fear, a brilliantly frustrating emotion that masks your movements from the other side.

With the basics of the game set out, it suddenly becomes clear that this isn’t the cakewalk it might have first appeared to be. What’s more, the PS3 version of the game provides a whole host of game-lengthening options to keep you trying out for the available trophies. The single player mode lets you duke it out in single player matches, testing out a plethora of maps and opponents, but it also conveniently has a league that lets you progress gently through the learning curve as you come to grips with the powers and emotions, as well as the quirks and styles of the different AI players. If you feel like taking it online then there are the standard duels as well as team games and a four-player last man standing mode, all of which can be accessed from the online lobby area. However, it seems that there are precious few games running, so be prepared to create your own and then wait a while. Luckily you can also play split-screen with up to four friends, which works really well, so long as you have friends.

Once you’ve tired of duelling, there are two more modes of gameplay open to you, the first of which is Time Attack, where you try to collect every pellet as fast as you can from a series of maps from the most basic through to the highly complex. Thankfully you can choose any of the scavenging emotions to help you win and again this all comes down to the right tool for the job, as some maps will seem impossible until you pick the bonus that suddenly makes it a breeze. Complete these in a short enough time and you can get a gold, silver or bronze ranking on each one, which in turn progressively unlocks the eight mini-games. A logical extension of the time attacks, these mini-games are a series of maps that need to be cleared entirely in a single run. There’s no goal chasing here; instead there are a variety of troublesome obstacles, such as toppling cubes and randomly firing guns that make you shed the precious pellets and ruin your time score.

Geon is a fairly complete package for a PlayStation Network download title that will keep you entertained for many an hour. Sadly, however, as with all things, it isn’t without flaws. While the gameplay and look is fine, the music is bland at best and the less said about the ‘boingy’ sound effects the better, as they grate fairly swiftly. In addition, the biggest problem is controlling your Geon cube; because it can only move along the grid lines, the analogue nature of the controller works against it, meaning that you’ll soon forsake the stick for the d-pad and even then you will still find yourself moving the wrong way at times. Worse still, because the jump button is also used to flip over the map, it means that on some of the more convoluted grids, or in the heat of a panic, it’s far too easy to jump away from the edge rather than flip around, making you lose precious seconds or leaving you easy bait for an enemy attack. Still, these are pretty small fry for a title that is very much complete and a wholly entertaining little puzzler.

Geon is an enjoyable and entertaining puzzler that could have been dull but is greatly enhanced by the presence of intelligent AI opponents that keep you on your toes at all times and give you far more to think about than just collecting pellets. It’s also a great demonstration that sometimes companies do actually listen, because here we have a once-flawed game that has been evolved into something downright decent. If you’re a puzzle game fan then Geon is close to an essential purchase for those looking for something new on the PlayStation Network.

 

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