Saturday, October 13, 2012

Color Wars

Coconuts Japan

Color Wars is something of a three-dimensional kinsman of Reversi. Main modes of play pit four participants against one another in a series of game-piece-capturing contests. The trinkets here are beads that are slid down a pre-positioned set of strings. Surround an opponent's bead (or line of beads) with two of your own, and the captured pieces are flipped to your side. You can rotate the playfield as you like to analyze each possible angle of attack.

All four play spots can be manned by human participants, but a lengthy Adventure Mode is available for those whose friends have other things to do. Your Color Wars "adventure" will consist of watching your avatar jaunt from one match location to another on a no-frills map screen and partaking in thirty-two battles of bead appropriation, each of which lasts a total of four rounds.

I was concerned coming in that I'd lose patience with the game, that the three other participants in a given match would pause to ponder each of their moves and that a great deal of time would have to be spent rotating the board. But none of my computer-controlled adversaries ever delayed matters for more than a second or two with their contemplation and field spinning. In fact, it was I who prompted complaints about taking too long.

But while the playing practices of my fellow contestants didn't bother me, the length of the adventure did. One hundred and twenty-eight rounds is more than a bit much, especially since the game just isn't very deep--we're hardly talking chess here. And I found that by sticking with some basic tactics, I could easily crush the first few dozen oddballs who faced me.

It wasn't until the fifteenth match--in other words, fifty-six rounds into the "quest"--that I finally encountered a player who seemed to have some idea of what he was doing. And at that point, just as the game was beginning to get challenging, I found myself sick of it.

I trudged on anyway, of course, as that's what Duomazovs do. My enemies did finally figure out that it's not a bad idea to go for top-shelf slots in the corners and bottom-row spots on the rest of the perimeter. Suddenly, I found myself involved in tightly contested matches. But even once I was forced to shake myself from my stupor and actually think about the moves I was making, the number of battles left to wage seemed ludicrous, especially since the level of difficulty was being raised in such minute increments. And some matches can feel not only superfluous but senseless, as chance frequently comes into play. If luck is with you, you may gain control of the perimeter at once and cruise to victory.

If it isn't, you could find yourself in a horrible situation before you've even had an opportunity to make a move. A computer-controlled player may have to decide early on whether to nab a piece from you or from another participant, and that one decision can have a huge impact on the way the rest of the round plays out.

And if the way things are playing out isn't sitting well with you, the audio and cinemas won't do much to improve your mood. The mellow musical tracks would be pleasant enough to listen to if they weren't so abrasive and repetitive. The cutscenes are neither interesting nor well drawn.

They are a sign, however, that progress is being made; so I suppose I should be thankful for their inclusion, as the barely noticeable ramp-ups in difficulty certainly didn't make me feel like I was getting anywhere. Fewer matches with a significant increase in difficulty from one to the next might've made the Color Wars adventure more enjoyable, rewarding, and endurable.

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