Update: Starzzle is no longer available following the great XBLIG purge. No port exists. 

Puzzle games are better suited for portable devices.  When you have a couple free minutes you can knock off a level or two and then quickly transition back to whatever you were doing before.  Putting them on a console isn’t such a hot idea because, more often than not, extended sessions can start to drag and get boring.  This is what I went through while playing Starzzle on my Xbox 360.

Crying shame I chose the wrong platform to purchase this on, because it’s actually a potentially good game.  The object is to collect all the stars using your on-screen character, a red blob thingy and his companion blue block that can’t eat stars himself.  Once you move, you can’t stop until you hit a wall, so you have to plot out which path is the best way to grab all the stars.  It’s a simple mechanic that has been used as a mini-game in some mainstream releases, only here it’s stretched out to a full length title.  There’s 84 levels to be had spread over four worlds, with the tease of two additional worlds left to be added by the developers.  Although I’m certainly not holding out any hope that they ever see the light of day, nor would I care.

I somewhat enjoyed Starzzle despite that fact that it has more flaws then a fifth generation inbred Kentuckian.  There’s four worlds to explore with 21 levels each, but once the blue companion block is introduced about ten levels in there’s no new gameplay twists to deal with.  Each world has a different theme that in no way changes  any of the mechanics, so it comes across as wasteful.   And I also found level progression to be off.  You don’t actually need to collect every star to unlock the next level, so it’s as if the game rewards you for finishing half of each puzzle.  You do need to collect stars to unlock worlds two through four, but getting the minimum amount of stars in each stage seems to do the trick.

The game attempts to make up for this by giving awards for each puzzle.  One of them is completing each stage using the minimum amount of moves possible.  That one makes sense.  But then the other two awards are based on the amount of stars you collect.  You get one award for 100% gathered.  Fair enough.  The other is if you only get 60%.  Again, this feels like having laziness rewarded.  There’s also an achievement system that begs the question of why Microsoft doesn’t allow indie games to at least use some form of it, even if it’s a separate score just for the XBLIG platform.

And then there’s the glitches.  I encountered quite a few with Starzzle.  The most annoying one started after I completed world one.  I was told I had unlocked world two.  Yeehaw!  High fives all around.  And then after completing level 2-1, I was told I had unlocked the next world.  Which I hadn’t.  This was repeated with every single level that followed.  I was actually worried that when the time came to really unlock world three, the game wouldn’t allow me to, but thankfully this wasn’t the case.  However, later when I completed world 3-5 the game refused to acknowledge it or reward me any medals despite the fact that I had gathered every star.  Thankfully the next level did open up, but I had to go back to the menu to get to it.  It was an annoying hiccup.  Other issues popped up related to the menu’s awkward layout and control scheme, sometimes not allowing me to back out of a level at all.  Clearly this baby was a bit premature.

I never encountered any stages that were unbeatable, which became a worry following all the other glitches early on, and thus I think I can kind of squeeze out a mild recommendation for Starzzle.   I’m actually going to advise players to skip the XBLIG version and download the equally priced iPhone version instead.  Despite it’s flaws, the guys at Bionic Thumbs clearly have talent and I don’t want to discourage them from making further games, or batshit insane trailers to go along with them.  Instead, I’ll remind them that Mussolini didn’t die trying to make the trains run on time just so you guys could release something this unfinished.

xboxboxartStarzzle was developed by Bionic Thumbs

igc_approved80 Microsoft Points made the trains run on time in the making of this review.

About Indie Gamer Chick
Indie game reviews and editorials.

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