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7th May 2012; By KnucklesSonic8
Players control a small, rather uninspired adventurer who appears to be a retired archaeologist in search of ancient Egyptian relics. Endowed with the power to create and remove block platforms on a whim, no goal is ever out of reach if you plan things right. You move him around the level by using either the Circle Pad or the +Control Pad, jump using the B Button, and press the A Button to create new blocks or remove pre-existing ones directly in front of you. You can even freeze in mid-air for half a second and place blocks that way. Let's say you're on a block and want to continue going in a straight line. You can hold Down and press A to place a block underneath and, with continuous presses, create like a walkway. In later levels, the Y Button will be employed to eliminate enemies by way of a small shotgun, but you must first grab a medium-sized bullet before it can be triggered. With the ability to control your surroundings at the snap of a finger, you might think that it would be easy to alter any puzzling situation to your advantage. However, Pyramids can actually be pretty challenging when it wants to be.
The goal in each of the 50-something levels is to collect the relic either out in the open or stashed somewhere inside a block, and then to make your way to the exit. Doing so will award you with a single star at the end as a mark of progress. Along the way, you can also collect gold pieces to potentially earn a second star, while a third star can be earned if you collect everything and still manage to make it to the goal within the specified time condition near the bottom of the 3D Screen. Those time limits can be described as a bit strict, as you'll find yourself having anywhere from one to five seconds to spare even if you take the fastest route possible. With no sense of story to tie everything together or a major goal to set your eyes toward, it's a pretty straightforward puzzle game; one that you'll load up if you want to just spend a few minutes at a time.
When Pyramids isn't providing that type of experience where you feel tested in terms of your planning skills and even reflexes, the game can actually be pretty irritating. In some ways, this is because of the level designs that the developers settled on, but in other cases it's simply a result of a lack of polish. Just in discussing that latter point, I was able to detect fairly quickly that the programming side of things needed some refinement. For starters, the controls here feel clunky, especially when using the Circle Pad. A byproduct of this is that there are sometimes delays when trying to lay bricks. Instead of creating a new platform as desired, the character may keep walking for a step or two and end up falling over the edge.
Firing your gun isn't instantaneous either, which becomes a problem when you remove a pre-existing block that houses a scarab and you have to react instantly to avoid getting hit. A much more common issue arises when you find yourself a little off in your positioning, and instead of a block appearing directly in front of you, it'll be in the unit over. Since you're expected to go fast to keep up with the strict time limit breathing down your neck, this kind of gameplay delivery becomes a bit of a problem.
In terms of the overall level design, I found it to be fine generally-speaking. Aside from a level that reminded me of Minesweeper in a way, there wasn't anything all that noteworthy about the layouts. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, though; I don't think the game suffers severely for not presenting terribly interesting in amongst the familiar mechanics it presents. Still, a change-up would've done the game some good halfway through. It got to a point where I started to lose interest with doing the same thing, even though it did get a bit more challenging as time went on. I found that by the time I reached the fifth world in particular, the designs weren't improving, and it was around this point where I had realized that the game was no longer going to provide any sort of enjoyment.
Besides the lack of interest going forward, I do have to draw attention to the fact that some of the levels aren't well-thought-out. Level 2-3 is but one example. Near the top of the level layout, there's an exit door and a flame with a TNT trigger in the middle. To avoid burning your on-screen character or ending the level prematurely, you need to slowly make your way over just a teensy bit past the block that's unpopulated just so you can activate the dynamite. Compare this to other situations where placing blocks one step ahead of where you want it to go becomes all too easy, which goes back to what I was saying earlier about having to position your character just so. In the way the levels are designed, it's almost like the developers were aware of it yet still decided to press onwards regardless of the possible implications this might have on accessibility. I'm not saying that there isn't a way to get around these types of situations, but they shouldn't really exist in the first place.
Continuing on the subject of polish, I thought the menu work could've been better. For some reason, you're not allowed to select things using the Circle Pad. You can only use the +Control Pad or whip out your stylus (or just use your finger) to tap the on-screen buttons. I later realized this was kind of appropriate because of the clunky feeling that comes from using the Circle Pad. It's almost like they wanted you to get into that habit right from the organization of the menus. You also can't pull up the Pause Menu by pressing the Start Button, as logic would dictate in an experience where touch controls are not involved during gameplay. Instead, you must, again, tap a button on the lower screen.
Adding to the list of areas that could have used refinement are framerate inconsistencies; repetitive music that stops playing at a certain point; scarabs that, strangely, sound like birds; as well as the fact that the 3D implementation, while nice in some areas, shows evidence of ghosting at times. Finally, Pyramids also stumbles upon the odd glitch now and again, like scarabs getting stuck in between blocks you create. There was even one time when I triggered the time-stop effect to get across some lowered spikes, but they rose before I could get to the end. I ended up walking through them for two seconds or so before the game was like, "Oh yeah, those knock you out!"
Although the game has QR Code recognition functionality for custom levels created by the developers, it's too bad they missed out on giving players their own level editor to work with so they could subsequently share their creations with friends. It's not like this would have made the game that much more fun to play, but it still would have added a bit more value to the package.
While the overall level of challenge does pick up, the fun factor doesn't. Between some technical issues, average level designs, and a lack of motivation to keep you going at times, Pyramids isn't as fun to play as you might think. The star requirements do help a bit in giving you something to work towards, but the strictness of the time limits don't present the most inviting atmosphere for the very casual gamers who would likely pick this game up in the first place. Pyramids is just an okay effort with a host of problems that a bit more development time could have ironed out, making this a very get-what-you-pay-for kind of situation. Unless you just can't hold out any longer for a new puzzle game to come along, it's fair to say there are better ways to spend your money on the eShop.
17/30 - Okay/Average
Gameplay 6/10 - Clunky controls, level design is mostly average but can be irritating at times, gameplay stays the same with very few surprises
Presentation 6/10 - Repetitive music, glitches, menu organization, average visuals, framerate inconsistencies, 3D looks nice in places, lacks refinement
Enjoyment 2/5 - Lack of interest prevents you from going forward, the game becomes boring after a while even with challenging levels, not all that fun
Extra Content 3/5 - QR code functionality for additional puzzles, good number of stages for a low price, no editor, can spend a few hours with it
Equivalent to a score of 57% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System