The amount of block puzzle games currently on the market is astounding. The sheer amount of them available on Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade service alone is enough to cause confusion. The point is that it takes something special for one to stand alone amongst the crowd. Developer Q Entertainment has been able to achieve this thanks to their quirky style which is present in their other titles such as Lumines and Rez HD. Meteos Wars is a re-imagining of the game of the same name that was released on the Nintendo DS back in 2005, with some obvious touch elements omitted. While the idea translates well enough to make this another solid entry to the XBLA family, fans of the original will immediately notice how much different the game is from its handheld counterpart.
Meteos Wars is best described as the ‘twitch’ member of the puzzle game family. Where games like Tetris and to a lesser extent Bejeweled allow players to tackle most of the game at a slower pace, Meteos throws everything at you at a hundred miles an hour. The concept is simple enough, match three blocks to send them into space, but the depth stems from the fact that there is a constant stream of things falling on top of your creation and the more you have stacked the harder it is to lift off. The game is also played against an opponent that can throw various bombs and attacks your way making Meteos one of the faster-paced puzzle games to come along in some time.
Believe it or not Meteos also comes fully equipped with a storyline to make sense of the madness. The idea involves an evil planet named Meteo that sends out these tiny blocks (meteos) to crush other planets. This is where the game mechanics come into play as you discover that lining three of them together causes an ignition that sends them flying back into space. Sure it is cookie-cutter and a bit ridiculous, but you have to give them credit, Eastern developers love coming up with the most bizarre ideas to explain their gameplay dynamics.
The entire concept behind the game is extremely easy to pick up, but mastering it will require cat-like reflexes. The biggest issue stems from the fact that the original idea was built with a touch screen in mind. Maneuvering from block to block simply isn’t as fluid with a controller. You can manipulate each block with the right analog stick, which with practice works much better than using the buttons, but nothing will compare to the touch screen. Gamers who never played the original though will likely not have as hard of a time getting accustomed to the slower style. Unfortunately the game doesn’t see it that way as it still feels designed to be played with faster movement.
With the Xbox 360 iteration we do get a few new features that make up for downgraded control scheme. The most obvious is of course the improved visuals. This version looks fantastic in HD and it really lends itself well to the cosmic art style. Also new to this version is local and online multiplayer that should keep fans playing for quite some time. Finally there is also a new attack exclusive to this version that changes the game up a bit (no worries you can disable it for classic style if you choose) and a host of small collectibles that you can use to decorate the screen.
Probably the most impressive upgrade though is the sound. Q Entertainment has always prided itself on creating eclectic soundtracks for its games and Meteos is no different. The electronic composition fits the style and mood of the game perfectly and is highly communicable. When you combine this dynamite soundtrack with the visual style of the game you have one of the most aesthetically pleasing games currently available on the service.
Meteos Wars is an excellent addition to the XBLA family and a delightful treat for fans of Q Entertainment in general. While it does suffer from transition issues to a traditional control scheme you can easily adjust to it after less than an hour. The addition of HD visuals, improved sound and online multiplayer make this more than worth the 800 space bucks, especially if you are a fan of unique puzzle games. I highly recommend checking our Meteos Wars if you are tired of the same old block-dropping formula that has plagued the service to date.