DSiWare | Nintendo | 1 Player | Out Now (North America) | 500 Nintendo Points
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23rd October 2010; By KnucklesSonic8
In Snapdots, each puzzle is made up of solid and transparent blocks that come together when solved, transforming a simple geometric drawing into a pixel-filled image. Along the border of the grid you have a UFO that you can control using the D-Pad. If you press the A Button, you can flick a block directly along the column your UFO rests upon. You can't just expect blocks to freeze in the exact spot you want, as you need to take into account a little thing called gravity. The block will only stay in place if there's another block adjacent to it, protecting it from falling. When it lands in a square that's not required to complete the puzzle, it will be distinguished by a pink block with a white X through it. In each puzzle, you have a limited supply of blocks that are just enough to complete the image, so it's important that you have all of these extra blocks removed to arrive at the final solution.
Players are required to think very carefully about the decisions they make early on in the game, but if you do happen to make a mistake, nothing is set in stone. With the press of the B Button, you can take back a block that's directly in front of your UFO, or press the X Button to Undo the last action you performed. Many times you'll need to change the way you perceive a puzzle, and so it's important that you get used to flipping the grid around with the L or R Buttons. On the left of the touch screen is a timer that tracks how long you've spent on the puzzle, as well as a step counter for the amount of turns you've taken trying to figure things out. The top screen just shows a pink-haired girl from outer space walking along a constantly-moving background with simple shapes passing her by. At the conclusion of a puzzle, you'll get to see the finished image in colour and you'll also get a comment from your foreign friend about what you just made.
The game's main Puzzle mode contains over 150 puzzles, spread out across 5 different levels. By the end of the first, you'll hit a key momentum in your personal progress where things will start to come more naturally. If you manage to clear at least half of a level's puzzles, you'll be allowed to advance to the next set of puzzles. Levels 2 and 3 make sure to keep you challenged along the way, but not just with harder levels. At around the halfway point, new elements will get thrown into the mix. You'll have to contend with bounce blocks which prevent you from firing blocks in its direction. And then there are push blocks that advance one space forward every time another block makes contact with it. The trick comes when its path is blocked, automatically forcing your block one square backwards on the playing field. Adding to this are spaces with a crater-like pit, preventing you from placing blocks on top of it, and you'll discern that there's a lot to consider.
The in-game lessons are very useful for supplying the player with essential techniques that will help you clear later levels successfully. One such trick is creating walls to gain access to spots that basically have a border of white space around them. By using one or multiple shots, you can place blocks beside ones that already exist in the surrounding area. And if you line them up right, you should be able to fill the highlighted square, and then proceed to remove all the extras. Another thing to keep in mind is that the order in which you tackle the different steps required to complete a puzzle. This becomes absolutely crucial later on because if you don't plan ahead, you'll find yourself stuck trying to figure out how to get the last block in its proper place. It is true that in many cases there's more than one way to arrive at a solution, but puzzles that make use of the additional gimmicks outlined above force players to think even more carefully beforehand.
Snapdots is one of those games that can be very frustrating if you have a narrow-minded way of playing. Sure, the puzzles do get very hard later on in the game, but in many cases, the solution will come to you once you view things in a different perspective. Of course, this is easier said than done. But sometimes it helps if you just stop, save, and take a break. Then you can come back with a clear mind and (hopefully) experience the "Aha!" moments you originally hoped for. When you do get a good handle on the game and start to play more instinctively, that's when the real fun begins. Speeding through a puzzle with foresight and direction becomes very satisfying, and that's something you can certainly count as a nod to your IQ level.
The presentation values are pretty simple in their execution. Both the music and the visuals are decent enough, but you won't find yourself raving over them. Same goes for the interaction the game tries to push between Dotty and the player. You may feel like she's little more than an afterthought, or may very well find her comments to be rather amusing. Either way, I suppose one could say she gives the game a bit more character. When it comes to mode selection, once again, you'll find Snapdots does a decent job here. In addition to the normal mode of play, there's also a tutorial area that presents players with a series of lessons to take a look through. Then there's a mode called "Dotty's Wisdoms", a rather useless selection where you simply view all the comments Dotty uttered as you accompany her on her unexplained journey. There's also an unlockable Time Attack mode where you try to complete as many puzzles as you can within the time limit. For $5, it's a good set of modes, but I'd argue there could've been one more mode to help with the variety in an otherwise-repetitive puzzle game, such as a multiplayer component.
Nonetheless, just like many other games before it, Snapdots is deceptively-challenging, yet quite enjoyable. It fits right in with the puzzle games of today, which is largely due to how similar it feels to Picross DS. When you finally complete a puzzle (sometimes 200 moves later!), you still feel very impelled to keep going to see everything the game has to offer. Not even those (sometimes self-imposed) moments of frustration are enough to keep someone down from treading through at least half of the game's puzzle selection. Admittedly, you may wish to take an extended break from this title once you reach a certain point, but it is fun while it lasts.
22/30 - Good
Gameplay 8/10 - Mechanics have a thin layer of depth to them, deceptively-challenging, push and bounce blocks add variety, requires strategic planning
Presentation 6/10 - Nothing special, both the music and the visuals get the job done, Dotty's inclusion can either seem amusing or pointless
Enjoyment 4/5 - Very satisfying, frustrating at times but if you enjoy puzzle games you should already be used to it, a decent level of variety too
Extra Content 4/5 - More than enough puzzles to keep you busy for hours, Time Attack mode, could've had another mode for variety, good value
Equivalent to a score of 73% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)