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Ace Mathician - DSiWare Review

Game Info
Ace Mathician

DSiWare | Goodbye Galaxy Games / CIRCLE Entertainment | 1 Player | Out Now | 200 Nintendo Points
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26th July 2012; By KnucklesSonic8

Math and I have a bit of a strained relationship, so anything that gets me to enjoy learning about the field or look at associated concepts in a different way is good in my books. It is for that reason that I looked forward to Ace Mathician and its promise of pitting functions together with platforming. And ultimately it is the same reason why I was let down over what could have been.

    At heart, Ace Mathician is just a really basic platformer. In fact, the first batch of levels are so easy that anyone who doesn't normally play videogames would have absolutely no trouble understanding what they must do. From there, the main piece of the pie is introduced as something easy to grasp and run with. Platforms outlined in red can be controlled by inputting formulas via the interface on the Touch Screen. Math Mode, as it is called, will reveal an otherwise invisible grid which indicates X- and Y-coordinates for the purposes of how these moveable platforms are arranged. Four buttons are always in place to offer a bit of experimentation in the manipulating of these platforms, albeit to a limited degree. With that being the case, players will need to toy with different possibilities of dividing, adding, multiplying, and even incorporating sines and cosines to arrive at a solution.

    The main goal of each level is to guide a jumpy koala to a pile of fruit, but a secondary goal is made manifest through the presence of stars. Collecting these will go towards the unlocking of a special star level at the end of each world, made accessible only once you've collected every last one in the levels that precede it. Without these in place, level designs would appear more bare than they actually are from the standpoint of how easy it would be to just zip through everything. At least with aiming for all the stars, more time is ultimately spent in the small environments you find yourself in. The level designs seen here aren't substantial in the slightest, and it's only by the slight shifts created through the mathematical system that there's anything worth getting into. Admittedly, the repositioning of platforms in this case doesn't feel all that creative once you get into it. Since there isn't a whole range of possibilities as to how you can control the environment to your liking, what the system ends up doing is resorting to somewhat primitive means to carry out a clever idea that appears less and less clever as you move forward. As a result, the concept never gets pushed and the potential doesn't ever materialize into something of note.

Though the main system might suggest otherwise, Ace Mathician is really more for the kids. Yet, even with this understanding in mind, I still found the game to be somewhat unsuccessful in delivering its vision. The education aspect just isn't there; players are really just inputting numbers without any learning taking place. Had there been a more conscious effort to actually impart communicable take-aways or a process for development over the course of the game, the mathematical component would have been driven as something existential that the framework could not do without. As is, the concept at work falls flat to a certain degree and actually works against the game's design in the matter of efficiency.

    To put it another way, the execution of the idea doesn't mesh perfectly with the nature of the simplistic level designs. That's not to say that this has created a point of contrast, but the lack of depth shows up quite quickly; and it is a surprising flaw given how everything has been set up. The basics of the game design draw too much attention to themselves and actually show the system to be the only thing keeping the entire thing afloat. It would not be a problem per se had the formula been more successful at driving that mathematical component as a part of a unified body, rather than something that sort of sits at the edge.

    One thing the game does do well at is providing a nice sense of progression. Later on, monkeys are introduced to give you a new way of looking at how you can manipulate the environment to get where you need to go uninjured. There's an overall adequate pacing to be had in how this all comes out on a gradual basis, and I do commend the effort shown on that front. Unfortunately, the game ends just as it starts to take a bit of shape. Ace Mathician is measly in the content department, what with an hour or less being all that is required to clear all levels. Once again, the star system does give players a bit more to do and unlock, but there's no getting around the fact that this is a really short experience. 

I was also surprised that the game's presentation didn't do much for me. On the programming side of things, I did notice some technical issues that only added to me being unimpressed by the entire package. A couple of these were sound effects not playing when they were supposed to, me having to tap icons and other elements multiple times just to get them working, as well as a game freeze and a very minor drop in framerate. Besides that, both the background and foreground elements consist of coloured pixels that are functional but don't have a big splash of colour to them. The font that's used for the text carries the same basic tone that the rest of the game has, so I suppose it's fitting to some extent, even if it is a predictable choice. Finally, animations of the monkey sprites and those of your main character are decent for what they are, but I found them to be surprisingly not that charming.

    Whether young or old, Ace Mathician does not leave a mark. There may not be any major problems with how the concept has been executed, but the really ho-hum effort just leaves you feeling disappointed. The potential was there to go further, but evidently the brake was pulled before that could happen. At least the price tag isn't too bad; anything higher than $2 and I would have been gravely concerned. Alas, what's been seen as fit for consumption, I see as somewhat unfinished, and it's really too bad more wasn't done to support the game's case of originality.

15/30 - Below Average

Gameplay 5/10 - Really basic execution, not taken to its full potential, mathematical component falls flat to a degree, limitations reveal a lack of depth
Presentation 6/10 - A decent effort for the most part, functional attributes but not that charming, a few technical concerns tied to the programming 
Enjoyment 2/5 - Kids may be amused for a short while because of the ease, system seems less clever as you go along, educational value not made clear
Extra Content 2/5 - Stars add a bit of replay value but not a lot, a really short experience that ends before it really begins, feels unfinished

Equivalent to a score of 50% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System

Review by KnucklesSonic8

Ace Mathician
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