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I Heart Geeks - DS Review

Game Info
I Heart Geeks

DS | CDV Software Entertainment / Marc Ecko Entertainment | 1-2 Players (local multiplayer) | Out Now (North America)
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16th February 2012; By KnucklesSonic8

When I was a kid, I was really into those nifty marble tracks where you could set up your own little contraption and basically have fun for hours at a time. Call me easily amused, but when I discovered I could then use those same marbles to trigger a separate sequence of events -- like knocking over a string of dominoes -- the little scientist in me really started to come out. Pretty soon I would move on to balloon inflation experiments using baking soda, vinegar, and 2L pop bottles. Games like
I Heart Geeks attempt to draw upon this appeal of satisfying experimentation, with the end result theoretically spurring you on further to tweak and re-apply what you learn. Have the developers managed to successfully translate this trial and error principle into a fun experience? Or does it fall short of pushing for that same level of motivation and constant curiousity?

    I Heart Geeks features 100 main levels that task players with combining, arranging, and triggering items to accomplish a simple goal. 
Each puzzle has its own simple title with an objective-identifying description to match. "The balloon is still here. Please pop it." Can't get any simpler than that! Each level is divided into different categories, each managed by one of the in-game nerds. Some of the main themes at work include magnetism, liquids and gases, pulleys and gears, and electricity. Common elements seen throughout include balloons, toy trucks, light-reflecting mirrors, buckets, tennis balls, fans and magnets. In true Rube Goldberg fashion, the game provides players with a series of household items that they can position in place to create domino effects whenever triggers are involved. It's like 5th Grade Science class all over again!

Gameplay is primarily stylus-based, allowing you to move objects around the playing field with ease. When you first start a puzzle, the default setup will be shown on the top screen with your item inventory displayed on the Touch Screen. However, using the red icon in the bottom-left corner or the L and R Buttons, you can swap the position of the two screens. You can select an item and bring them over to the playing field by tapping the respective icon and switching the screen view, but you can also select multiple items back-to-back to avoid switching screens constantly.

    The game's levels are set up in a very linear fashion where players will go through the game in a sequential fashion. As you encounter puzzles that present new concepts ("new" in the sense that you haven't already encountered them in the game), you'll have to complete different tutorial sessions along with the usual batch of stages. In many cases, you'll find there is more than one way to solve a particular puzzle, and to that effect, you might even end up not using all of the supplies provided. That's always a good thing to see in a puzzle game like this. I also liked how the game tried to encourage players to apply real-world knowledge on how some of these devices work to arrive at solutions, but if you missed your lesson in school on a particular subject -- how to reverse the movement of gears, for example -- you might have some trouble. For the most part, gameplay is only as varied as the items you're given, meaning that if you're not a fan of repetition, you may find it boring to get through the entire game since not even the different puzzle themes give players enough variation to work with.

    Because of the way the game is set up, whenever you hit a brick wall you can't really move forward along a different set of levels, which frustrates any sort of determination you may have towards beating that particular level. And unfortunately, the organization of levels makes it so that you'll come up against these obstacles quite frequently, serving as a caveat to the somewhat challenging gameplay. In some cases, there are arrows provided to give you clues as to the sequence of events when figuring out a new puzzle, but sometimes these aren't always clear either. This is where the help feature comes in: tapping the respective icon on the Touch Screen will outright give you the answer as to where the active item belongs. For the longest while, though, I couldn't quite figure out why the hint system would work one moment and seem unresponsive the next. It wasn't until I realized that you need to have an item selected for the hint to come through. But I digress.

With players having no limits imposed upon them for the use of this feature, you can cheat your way through the entire game and not suffer any major consequences. The only real problem this creates is that you won't get a very good high-score, but in the long run, that's not something I can see most caring about anyway. The ability to use unlimited hints ultimately takes away the challenge from the game, and when players can get away with their actions, there's absolutely nothing stopping you from plowing through the game with no trouble. It's a bit of a conundrum because without a hint system in place at all, the brick wall syndrome mentioned above makes this game less fun to play, but when you're allowed to use as many hints as you want, the minimal amount of motivation players might have originally had coming in will quickly fade.

    There were a few puzzles that were deceptively challenging in their design (like using fans to push balloons upwards whilst avoiding fire), but others are just so straightforward that there's no challenge or enjoyment to be derived from them. Too often, I Heart Geeks goes to either end of the spectrum, where you're either breezing through puzzles or are frustrated over a series of unsuccessful attempts. Instead of the game getting harder bit by bit, you'll typically encounter troubling puzzles at odd points as you go along, with no real progression taking place in the increase of difficulty. I found that my occasional dissatisfaction with the game often came out especially when I was faced with puzzles with very few elements and still seemed to be missing something important.

In terms of the feedback of your actions, there are several times where the game's basic engine fumbles and causes (usually minor) problems. Just a few things I experienced during my time with this game include tennis balls passing through platforms, balloons somehow squeezing their way through walls, and lasers passing right through bombs as though they were but a sticker on the wall. I also encountered some occasional slowdown with the framerate, and there were quite a few times when glitches would occur. Sure these are easily reversible, and there was one instance where a glitch actually helped me solve a puzzle, but they shouldn't be present in the first place.

    Continuing on the subject of presentation, I Heart Geeks uses simplistic animations that look like they were done in a rush using Adobe Flash. The music isn't even worth discussing due to the fact that it's generic and somewhat repetitive. The only positive thing I can say here is that the playing fields during gameplay use a mix of warm and dark colours. Viewing this aspect as a whole, though, the developers seemed to show little concern over how the average player would digest the lack of flair, personality and style with the visual approach.

While there are a couple missions along the way that are actually kind of neat with the sequence of events that take place, there's a similar amount that are a bit annoying), like having to use seven magnets to guide a ball through a small obstacle course. And although the word "fast" has been used to describe the game, certain missions were actually a bit on the slow side, particularly when rockets were involved.
Additionally, I wasn't a fan of the two-part "boss battles" against the jocks. These involved using a distraction technique on one of the bullies to lead one of the other group members into a trap that you would create and subsequently activate using a robotic invention. Besides just the fact that the animations here look sub-par and glitches would sometimes occur, the overall execution of this idea is lame and unexciting.

Side-stepping the flaws for a second, the way
I Heart Geeks is presented doesn't exactly give players added incentive to return. First of all, it should be acknowledge that this isn't something you'll play on a regular basis, but in strides -- likely when you get bored with other games. Ironically, unless you couldn't care less about the game's visual design, the simplistic visuals used here can prove to be a bore. The game comes included with a wireless multiplayer option where two players who own a copy of the game can face off in puzzle battles. I personally didn't get to test out this feature, but I could actually see this being kind of fun with relatives.

    I Heart Geeks is a functional, yet unimpressive physics-based puzzle game with very few noteworthy attributes to it. Frankly, there's hardly anything compelling about it, and the basic presentation fails to make the game more appealing to the eye. The core concept is there, but there are flaws with the game design and even the engine itself, taking away an understandable portion of the overall fun factor. Although the game isn't bad, I'd advise you to spend your money elsewhere if you're looking for a great puzzle fix.

16/30 - Below Average

Gameplay 7/10 - Puzzles touch on different science topics, can apply real-world knowledge, multiple solutions, linear progression, lame boss battles
Presentation 4/10 - Game engine is a bit on the glitchy side, not much care put into the visual approach, weak animations, somewhat repetitive music
Enjoyment 2/5 - Difficulty bounces from one end to the next, repetitive and frustrating at times, lacking in fun, hint system takes away from the game
Extra Content 3/5 - 100 main levels divided into multiple categories, wireless multiplayer, not much motivation to plow through or come back to it

Equivalent to a score of 53% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System

Review by KnucklesSonic8

I Heart Geeks
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