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Brainstorm Series: Treasure Chase - DS Review

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Brainstorm Series: Treasure Chase

DS | Storm City Games | 1-2 Players (local multiplayer) | Out Now (North America)
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26th August 2011; By KnucklesSonic8

Admittedly, it's quite a challenge to think outside the box and re-invent or even improve sliding block puzzles. It's not surprising that the majority of gamers just opt for more compelling puzzle games and leave these behind -- unless, of course, they're forced upon them in other unrelated games. If this thought has crept into your mind, now may not be the best time to give up on them completely. Storm City released Brainstorm Series: Treasure Chase last month as part of a publishing deal with Bitfield -- developers of the Blockado series which, coincidentally, just made its DSiWare debut a few days ago. Instead of being something that would leave you thirstier than you were before you started playing, Treasure Chase is a pretty decent game for what it is.

    Players will begin their quest in the game's Adventure Mode, travelling to different geographic locations in search of ancient artifacts. The entire game is treated like a big expedition of sorts where you track your progress through treasure maps. There are 10 stages in each level, and the first stage must be completed before you can advance to the next. The only exception is when you're three steps away from obtaining the treasure at the end of the path. At this point, a fork exists, presenting you with the option of continuing with normal stages or trying your hand at the harder puzzles where you won't receive any assistance at all. Either way, if you hope to beat every single puzzle in the game, you'll have to come back and clear them all, but for the purposes of progressing to the next world, it's nice that it's not totally linear all the way through.

    Solving puzzles involve moving rectangular blocks that are obstructing the path of one or more treasure chests found on the board, with your overall goal being to direct these chests to glittering squares just outside the playing field. Everything is controlled using the stylus, where drags along the X or Y axis count as a move. Even if you repeatedly adjust the same block, it still only counts as one move until you start moving another shape. Instead of being limited to confined spaces where you can only move a single block to an empty square to allow another block to take its original spot, there are usually good amounts of unoccupied spaces which sometimes afford multiple solution possibilities.

At the bottom of the top screen, you'll find a move counter and a timer. Along the top of the Touch Screen, there is a pull-out menu with arrow keys that allow you to undo and redo moves. On rare occasions, the display can get in the way of viewing the entire board with a clear eye, so it's nice to be able to minimize it so that it's out of sight. Camera control is the only thing that isn't stylus-based; instead, you'll be using the D-Pad to get a better view from up above or on a different side. 

    In the event that you get stuck on a puzzle and get annoyed with your lack of progress, the Pause Menu features a Solve button that gives you two options. You can either see a step-by-step guide on how to solve the puzzle or tap 'Solve now' to just advance to the next level with only a one-Star rating. Interestingly, after making use of this feature once, the game does not allow you to use it again until another 20 minutes have passed by. Even when you turn off the game and head back in, the timer is still unaffected. The developers did a nice job programming that in.

    After a puzzle has been solved, you'll be given one, two or three Stars depending on how many moves were used. While viewing your results, text boxes will pop up if you manage to obtain an Achievement in the process. Some of these are a bit silly, like asking you to play the game on a holiday, but seeing the "Unbelievable" achievement (clear a level in fewer moves than the 3-Star requirement) can be a source of encouragement for the player. Also, with the help of the DSi Camera, a picture of you will be displayed on the top screen. I'm not sure why they felt the need to capture reactions this way and it's a pretty worthless addition if you ask me. 

    There's nothing special about what's on display here. With a simple premise, the developers were counting on getting players addicted to this simple (and somewhat tired) premise. Had they kept things to a minimal and didn't strive for anything more than that, Treasure Chase would quickly get shafted to the "Skip" pile. But what makes this game a little more interesting than other games it's based on are the different mechanics they incorporate over time. 

One of the first new elements you'll see as you plow through stages comes in the form of spring block. Other blocks that are pushed up against either side will prevent the springs from releasing. With a group of multiple springs, you can initiate a domino effect that can create openings for the treasure chest to pass through. There are also linked blocks that move together at the same time and gem blocks that attract or repel other blocks of the same type resting on the same axis. Having to contend with multiple gimmicks simultaneously is tricky of course, but these challenging situations make the game somewhat fun to play -- especially when a plan comes together. 

    Presentation is pretty standard all-around. A brief jingle plays at the start of each level but after that, the audio you hear is just ambience with nature sounds and the like. Other than that, there aren't many other tracks to speak about. Visually, the game looks fine with no problems of poor textures or framerate inconsistencies to report. 

    In the way of extras, there are tons upon tons of extra puzzles to solve in the Bonus Puzzles area. There's also a wireless multiplayer option and a 10-level demo that you can send out via Download Play. Selecting the Puzzle Scanner option will activate the system's camera function for the purpose of scanning QR Codes. There are 16 codes to be found within the included manual, giving you even more puzzles to complete. 

    Comparing this game to other recent innovative puzzlers, Brainstorm Series: Treasure Chase isn't going to get a raving recommendation by any means. But the twists the developers gradually add to the standard formula make for some pretty challenging puzzles. Overall, it's a decent purchase for casual gamers looking for a simple on-the-go game.

21/30 - Good

Gameplay 7/10 - Typical formula with a few changes here and there to make things more challenging, new elements introduced gradually
Presentation 6/10 - Minimal audio throughout, graphics and menu layouts are standard affair
Enjoyment 3/5 - Nothing special but it can be somewhat fun, tricky puzzle solutions, not totally linear
Extra Content 5/5 - QR code scanner, plenty of puzzles to complete, pointless use of the DSi Camera, wireless multiplayer, achievements

Equivalent to a score of 70% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Review by KnucklesSonic8
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