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Game Maker Games - Acidbomb
 Acidbomb by Mr.Chubigans
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Review by Joewoof
A drop of cold sweat trickles down my forehead. The music changes. Ten. The countdown begins. Nine. I scan through the bomb again. Eight. The last two pistons - where? Seven. Tap, tap, tap, tap. Six. The screen begins to shake. Five. Concentrate! Four. One of these last three tiles - click. Three. Noise fills the screen. Two. This one is a virus! That means! One. Click! Click!

Mission Complete. Defused the bomb!

That powerful experience awaits you in Acidbomb, a fast-paced puzzle game where you play as a "bomb-defuse expert". You start your career dealing with teenage pranks in the countryside. As you progress through the game, you will be stationed closer to the big city. Until finally, you have to disable nuclear "superbombs" set by terrorists.

In this game, you are given a number of tiles (in a grid), under which "pistons" are hidden. To defuse the bomb, you must locate all pistons and disable them. To find the pistons, you are given up to three scanners (called SDUs), which come in the form of horizontal, vertical and diagonal bars. These scanners detect the number of pistons hidden under each row, column and diagonal line, respectively. In some missions, you can also use a limited number of Chaff Grenades, which reveal whether a piston is hidden under a single tile or not. It is not as complicated as it sounds and there is a good tutorial to show you the ropes.

= Attraction =

Good.

This game appears very professional. The aesthetics are good and the graphics are distinctive and stylish. A slightly futuristic atmosphere dominates the game, but it is set in a very modern context. As a result, the game is kept believable, yet it remains interesting. Almost every element in the game fit together very well, with one exception. The room where you view different bomb types conflicts with the atmosphere of the rest of the game.

Although the second person perspective is handled reasonably well, it can be better solidified. If you do not read the included manual file, you will never learn that you are working for the US Department of Homeland Security. There is more potential that can be explored to increase the player's emotional attachment to he game, such as the addition of a plot. This is a relatively small factor though, since the game already has a high level of professionalism.

= Variety =

Fair.

Throughout the game, you will face seven different types of bombs. Each of them requires a different strategy to defuse, and it definitely keeps things interesting. For example, with Napalm Bomb (Flammable Liquid), its temperature will rise each time you tinker with it. Since it will explode if its temperature goes beyond a certain point, you have to work steadily and always keep your eye on the temperature. For the Chemical Bomb, you have to work very slowly. This is because you cannot mark tiles that are not pistons, meaning that you have to use memorization.

Each time you retry, the bomb puzzle will be different. This leads to a good amount of unpredictability. There is also limited nonlinear progression, where you have a choice between several missions to do.

Unfortunately, there is not enough variety for the length of the game. Halfway through, the game may start to become repetitive. This is because of two reasons.

First, there is not enough difference between bomb types. Oxidation and Spontaneous Combustible Bombs are essentially the same, since in both cases, all you really have to do is work faster. The Massive Bomb (Dangerous Substance) is basically a series of three Standard (Explosive) Bombs. The Nuclear Superbomb (Radioactive) is a disappointment, as it is simply nothing more than a very complicated version of the Standard Bomb.

Second, variety in regards to obstacles and your actions are lacking. The only "obstacle object" you face is the Virus Tile, which seems to stop appearing during the second half of the game. Adding more "obstacle objects" will lead to pleasant surprises, keeping the game interesting. For example, for the Spontaneous Combustible Bomb, one random tile can explode in certain intervals, wiping whatever marking was made on it. As for actions, you spend too much time fiddling with the scanners. After a while, it becomes repetitive. The Chaff Grenade adds a necessary spice to what you can do, but unfortunately, it is only limited to less than half of the missions. Variations of the Chaff Grenade can also be made. For example, one grenade may reveal, for a very brief flash, the location of every piston (or "non-piston") on the bomb (or random parts of it). This can easily be balanced out by lessening the countdown duration.

If the game is shorter, then this amount of variety may be enough. In this case, however, it needs more.

= Depth =

Excellent.

The game presents its story context very subtly, doing so through mission names, map topography and music. Obviously, mission names reflect the level of seriousness of the bomb threat, but more interestingly, it also shows the nature of the threat, implying who is responsible. Nowadays, when you hear about a bomb, it is usually related to terrorists. The present day conflict between Western countries and Islamic extremists is alluded to within the style of the incidental music piece. However, the threat doesn't always come from terrorists, except for the final levels. For an earlier mission, you are dealing with teenage pranksters. In another mission (if my memory serves), you are actually trying to defuse a broken oven that is about to explode. The locations of the planted bombs may also have a purpose. In a certain map, one bomb is labelled "decoy?". Later, a superbomb is placed opposite from it at a secret government headquarters. These subtle allusions and events, with a pinch of comedy, combine to create a meaningful and reasonably realistic purpose for your actions in the game.

Strategy definitely has an important role, as discussed earlier in regards to the bomb types. There is more to it, as the game also involves using a number of different techniques with the scanners. These techniques will be covered later (refer to Smooth Learning Curve).

Beating half the game will unlock the Virtual Bomb Simulator. It is basically a custom level generator. You can practice and experiment with it. There is also an additional incentive to do so. Once you complete a certain number of your own levels, you will unlock a Challenge mission. This is a special mission that is very difficult to complete (hence, its name). There seems to be several of these missions, adding some replayability after finishing the game.

Completing the entire game will unlock Acidrop Mode. This is a full-fledged minigame that comes with two modes - Timed and Endless. The Acidrop Mode is similar to Puzzle Bobble, where you fire similar tiles to pop falling ones. It is not as fun as defusing bombs, but it is a decent reward for finishing the game.

= Originality =

Good.

Although much of the concepts within the game was inspired from Minesweeper, it brings many new ones to the table. These new ideas include the scanners, having a countdown timer, nonlinear level progression, bomb types, Virus tiles, Chaff Grenades, having tiles in odd patterns to make levels more interesting and so on. In other words, this game takes the core gameplay of Minesweeper, infuses it with exciting elements, and develops that classic idea into a fresh, new concept that is superior in almost every way.

= Smooth Learning Curve =

Fair.

When you start the game, you are introduced to a wonderful tutorial that does a great job of teaching you how to play. With each concept, you can practice and experiment with game elements. You will definitely be ready once you begin your first level.

Unfortunately, as you progress through the game, the earlier techniques taught by the tutorial will become less and less useful. Once you reach the second map, you will most certainly get stuck, due to the fact that those techniques will become practically useless. Since the game tells you nothing further, you will start to believe that you have to rely upon your luck to win.

This is where the included instructions manual comes in. In this PDF file, the game hints at a couple of important techniques, one of which is absolutely essential in beating the game. However, the manual is written with very technical wording, which will probably only confuse the very players that need help. As a result, it's not that much help.

At the beginning, you use a single scanner at a time, running them through the entire grid to eliminate more and more tiles each time. As the grid becomes larger in later levels, this technique will become useless. Instead, you have to use it alongside another technique that allows you to find out exactly whether or not a single tile has a piston, without having to use a Chaff Grenade. Basically, if the sum of the row and the column are not equal to each other, you've spotted a piston. For example, you want to examine a tile somewhere in the middle of the grid. Using a single scanner at a time, the horizontal scanner detects 4 pistons, while the vertical one reads 5 pistons. Obviously, 4 + 5 = 9. Place the scanners over each other on that tile. If the number of detected pistons reads 8 instead, it means that tile has a piston. Otherwise, it doesn't. Here's another example. Horizontal? 2 pistons. Vertical? 3 pistons. Horizonal AND vertical? 5 pistons. There is no piston under the intersection; therefore, the tile has no piston.

Although there is a great tutorial in the game, it can only get you through the first map. Afterwards, you have to figure out new techniques, or refer to manual for confusing hints. As a result, most players will probably not complete the game, not because it is too hard, but because it becomes impossible to beat without figuring out the above technique.

= Flow =

Excellent.

The Flow of the game is fast-paced with great dynamics. The countdown timer acts as the driving force behind the action, forcing you to work with the bomb as fast as possible. When a level starts, it does so with a powerful and stylish hook, displaying the "Mission Start" message with a metallic sound. Tension grows with each passing second, until it climaxes at decisive moment where the bomb either blows or stops. If you succeed, a soft tune will play with a "Mission Complete" message, enhancing your feeling of relief and accomplishment. If you fail, the screen will go white and a "Retry?" message will immediately appear, allowing you to instantly try again. This encourages you to keep going, even after losing repeatedly.

Once you've beaten a level, the game automatically saves, reducing any unnecessary, repetitive action on your part.

The game also encourages you to keep going through anticipation. Once you've cleared the first map, you will know that there is a "superbomb" (boss battle) awaiting you at the end of each map. Even from the very beginning, the game shows you five maps that you can reach. These elements show you that there is an end in sight - and that the "final battle" will be an epic showdown (and it really is epic).

= Modulated Challenge =

Fair.

Although it is clear that levels within each new map is harder than the last, the difference in the difficulty of each level within the same map is often random and inaccurately displayed. When you roll your cursor over a level icon, the difficulty of that level is also displayed. Due to how the tiles within the levels are randomly generated, too much is left to luck; as a result, the difficulty displayed is often wrong. For example, one level that says "Normal" may actually be "Very Hard", and vice versa. This unstable difficulty is sometimes disorienting. Some levels can be disappointingly easy, while others may become frustratingly hard. This is not always problem, but the difficulty labels lead to players forming incorrect expectations of certain levels, which can become a nuisance.

This dependence on luck is also possible to abuse, where you can keep retrying until you start with an easy alignment of tiles.

In the beginning, the use of Virus tiles automatically adjusts the difficulty level for less skilled players, since they never change positions. It means that, dying often in the same level will make it easier, adjusting its difficulty to your skill level. This is unfortunately taken out for later, harder levels, where many players are definitely going to have problems with. This creates greater dependence on the aforementioned special technique that is hinted in the manual outside of the game. Thus, the game later becomes unforgiving for less skilled players.

= Immersion =

Excellent.

The graphics in this game are incredibly impressive. The interface and sprites are kept simple and clean, as to not become obtrusive to its fast-paced gameplay. Complementing that simplicity is the use of very dynamic backgrounds that is composed of the same octagonal shapes (for uniformity). The background effects give the impression that you are dealing with a very volatile electrical device, which fits perfectly into the theme of the game. The font used for the messages and numbers clearly have a modern appearance, further enhancing the near-futuristic atmosphere.

The special effects used within this game are mind-blowing. In the last few seconds when the bomb is about to blow, the screen will begin to not shake, but vibrate. This generates a massive dose of tension, firmly locking your gaze to the screen. Coupled with a change in music and a sound of "the bomb charging up", the experience is, without question, amazingly powerful.

The music not only fits the game perfectly, but also offers a wide range of different tracks. Many of them are incidental, while others are ambient. The one used for the "superbomb" is solely responsible for creating the "epic final battle" experience. In all levels, the music changes into a more serious track once the final countdown begins. As said before, this change helps to capture the intensity of the situation. For the "superbomb", the music transforms into a faster, more urgent version of itself. Very cool.

Likewise, sound effects are also very effective.

As mentioned earlier, this is one of the few puzzle games that has a solid story context. Even the manual outside the game attempts to stay within the game world, through the use of technical, formal language.

= Polish =

Excellent.

There are no major problems with this game in this regard.

Minor problems include the occasional Virus tile that doesn't generate noise, Flammable Bomb effects that can be slightly improved, and so on. All of them are pretty much negligible.

= Overall =

Good.

Acidbomb is probably the most intense GameMaker puzzle game to date. It exhibits great style, professionalism and depth. The game takes you on a fluid roller-coaster ride, throwing you at some of the most fearsome bombs in existence. The first half of the game is flawless, but afterwards, it can definitely use more variety and better presentation of more advanced techniques.

Play it. Save kitchens from ovens and cities from nuclear bombs.

~ Joewoof



= Creator's Description =

Acidbomb is a fifty level puzzle game where you must find the pistons used to trigger a bomb and defuse them before time runs out. There are many bombs scattered around the world, from biological bombs that have hair-sensitive triggers to napalm bombs that are exploding at the seams, to nuclear warheads that have challenged even the highest trained bomb defusal agent.

Along with this game you get the Virtual Bomb Simulator which allows you to make your own bombs, and a minigame called Ac!drop that is completely different from the rest of the game...but you'll see that for yourself.

Given that all the bombs in the game have random pistons, you will never EVER solve a bomb the same way twice. Ever.

Download Acidbomb (EXE, ~12.2 MB , Suitable for everyone )

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Recommendations: The 7 people who like Acidbomb also like the following games.
Comments (Add your own):
2007.06.26 matth1990
Rating: 10

Wow this game is great. Easily my new favorite gamemaker game.
2007.01.20 flamozoid gaming
Rating: 9

Great game! One of my new gmg favorites. :)
2007.01.16 YorPixL
Rating: 10

This game is EXELLENT!!!
Best puzzle-game I have ever played!!!
2007.01.16 ZPXNeonGM
Rating: 10

Oh, I am so keeping this on my hard drive. Nice work , man. You put a really nice game here.
2007.01.16 Radnom Games
Rating: 9

Hm, I think the staff rating is at least a little bit singy. This game should recieve at LEAST an 8... it was great fun, I really enjoyed it, even though I don't particularly like the puzzle genre. 9/10 from me, easily.
2007.01.05 rabid squirrel
Rating: 10

YESSSSSSS!
It has a review!!!!!!!!!!!! FINALLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I think I had something to do with that.

If I rated it on my personal amount of enjoyment, it would definitely be a 10, but that's just because I catch on to puzzle/strategy games really fast. What Joewoof said in the review about the advanced stuff is something I figured out by myself, and I can see that many players would give up when they couldn't figure that out.

I decided to give it a 10 anyway because I can't stand giving it less. but I can understand someone else giving it less.

This game has a HUGE amount of polish and it has got to be the the most suspenseful puzzle game I have ever payed. (not just GM but ALL puzzle games COMMERCIAL OR NOT!)

Play it if you like awesome games. And read Joewoof's review so you don't get frustrated and quit. I can't understand anyone not liking this (but I love puzzle games so that's just me.)
2006.09.13 LostOverThere
Rating: 10

Wow...this is even better then VC (My opinion).
2006.08.29 Miez
Rating: 10

I hate puzzlegames, but THIS one has taken me! This game is a lot of fun AND looks very good too. (how did you made these coloful movearound-things in the background of the normal levels?)
2006.08.29 Re_jex
Rating: --

Yes! I played the demo of this!
2006.08.29 oli887
Rating: 10

GREAT GAME !! Congrats. Best puzle game played ever. You should make an ac!d bomb 2 Great game !!
2006.08.29 Mr.Chubigans
Rating: --

Thanks everyone!

'(how did you made these coloful movearound-things in the background of the normal levels?)'

Believe it or not, just a couple layered backgrounds on top of each other most of the time. :)
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