Arctic Adventures: Polar’s Puzzles is a block-pushing puzzle game from Eiconic Games. It takes the puzzle mode from the Eiconic’s PSN and XBLA title Polar Panic and packages it into the PSP- and PS3-friendly minis format.
Your task in each of the game’s levels is to guide Polar the polar bear to the exit making your way around or through the blocks blocking your path. There are snow blocks to be smashed, ice blocks to be slid or smashed, metal blocks to be moved, explosive-filled crates to be slid and, obviously, exploded and stubbornly immobile stone blocks.
Additionally, most of the levels require you to activate a series of switches to remove the final cube-shaped obstacle. Some switches toggle when you step on them, some require you to step on and off from different sides and some require a weight to activate them, either one of the movable blocks or Polar himself.
The fifty levels are collected into groups of five with only the first group being unlocked at the start. Subsequent groups are unlocked by collecting stars. Five stars are enough to unlock the second group, collecting ten will unlock the third, all the way up to a total of forty five being required to unlock the final group of levels.
Up to three stars will be awarded for completing each level. The first for simply getting Polar all the way to the exit. The other two stars are awarded if you equal or better that level’s target time and target number of moves.
Being the portable offspring of Polar Panic means that Polar’s Puzzles benefits from being able to use the library of graphics and sounds from the original title. As a result it looks and sounds better than many of the other minis titles I have played. The cartoon-style graphics have admirable charm and hold up well when the game is played on the PS3.
While that presentation helps make the game more enjoyable, as with all puzzle games it’s the challenge provided by puzzles themselves which is key and in this respect Polar’s Puzzles does not disappoint. The first few levels are essentially the tutorial introducing you to the different types of blocks and switches and their behaviours.
From there they follow a well-judged difficulty curve with the levels comprising growing combinations of the different blocks and switches. My favourite levels are those which take place on the pitching deck of a ship providing the dynamic hazard of loose barrels rolling around. Not only do the barrels mean you have to carefully time some of your block moves, they also kill Polar if he gets in their way proving that barrels of oil are currently imperilling more than just the fauna in the Gulf of Mexico.
The measured progression with which the stars unlock later levels means that you are almost certain to have other levels to try if you are momentarily stumped. The stars also allow you to decide the level of challenge the game provides. You may be satisfied simply to reach the exit on the levels or you can try and beat the target times and moves to see if you can lay claim to all 150 stars available. I originally thought that the number of moves it takes to earn a star for a level was the minimum number of possible moves but having beaten one of them it seems that they, like the times, are targets.
Eiconic suggest that there are over twenty hours of challenge in the game if you go after all the stars. That sounds about right as after five or six hours of playing for this review I have completed twenty eight levels and earned fifty stars, just one third of the total available. Obviously most of those were acquired during the earlier, easier levels of the game.
- A pretty, charming puzzle game
- Well-judged difficulty curve
- Make it more or less challenging by choosing to chase targets or not
- You’ve likely played numerous block-moving puzzlers before
Compared to the similar block-sliding puzzler D-Cube Planet this is an example of just how good some minis are and how minis games are developing. The polished presentation makes this one of the best-looking, sounding and playing minis I have yet tried. Of course that would count for very little if the puzzling at the game’s core was not up to the challenge and happily it is. There is also plenty of replayability in the puzzles if you are motivated to go after the targets to collect the stars or simply to beat your own records. If you enjoy this sort of puzzle game then Polar’s Puzzles is well worth checking out.
Arctic Adventures: Polar’s Puzzles is available now from the PSN Store for £3.49/€3.99/$4.99.