Combining three like objects somehow never loses its appeal, as long as there is a twist, and for Q? Entertainment, that twist was probably found by wanting to reach the stars. With rockets in hand, Meteos lights a fuse under a puzzle concept that has been worked to death and blasts it off into space. Instead of evaporating into the pixilated void after forming lines and assorted shapes, Meteos blocks turn into incendiary squares with fire jets flaring underneath, propelling any blocks above them into the sky. At least that is what the remaining planets have discovered.
The evil planet Meteo has become an extraterrestrial cancer, threatening the universe with streams of phantasmagoric matter suffusing from Meteo's surface. One by one, planets have fallen to the life-crushing blocks of Meteos, but then by chance of a here's-the-point event, three Meteos of the same type aligned and ignited.
Though the hard-boiled storyline continues with the impression that the player is piloting the Metamo Ark, a warship tasked with defending a chain of planets until facing Meteo at the finish line, it serves as a passive, quirky thread through what could have been cliché gameplay. How blocks are fired off the screen, stylus in hand, hits multiple sweet-spots that hone in on just the right difficulty and complexity. With the restriction that blocks can only be moved up and down a column, turning Meteos into rockets is fairly simple, particularly when compared to chaining complex launches. Removing blocks, as they drop more and more feverishly, requires small launches to be made across the width of the board, so that rockets connect by stacking above and below each other. This element of strategy, combined with a dynamic system in which something is always moving in real-time, just adds to the already frantic hands-on action.
Surprisingly, while this puzzler is of the general pick-up-and-play mold, its appeal lasts longer than a quick burst. Lending more significance than just common blocks, any Meteos that are sent into space are stored in a fusion room and can be transformed into weapons, rare Meteos, planets, and even music. The main storyline mode Star Trip is grueling on the highest difficulty setting, so forging weapons that can destroy chunks of Meteos will probably take first priority. The other game modes Simple, Time War, and Deluge don't benefit from weapons as much, but they allow for spurts of play that, courtesy of the variety of planets, still remain addictive.
Each planet offers an experience that is fresh and compact, minimizing the game's flaws by keeping the action in motion. Akin to competing against a CPU player, defeating planets requires launching piles of Meteos over to their game board with the hope that they will overflow and be annihilated. Given the three-minute time limit, holding down the accelerator button to speed up the drop rate occurs often, essentially compelling the player to quicken the pace despite the risk. Since each planet has its own sound effects, music, block skin, sound effects, Meteos distribution, and gravitational pull, the brisk tempo of play relieves some of the unavoidable loss of impact that happens after playing the game multiple times.
Once five different endings are reached and enough planets to recreate Earth's solar system are fused, there's not much reason to continue. Mastery of the game in particular is not clearly defined, emphasizing column management and luck more than skill. Groups of launched Meteos act independently when they are suspended in air, so especially for planets will low gravitational pulls, there will be large spans of time when only one or two columns will be left standing to take all the Meteos drops. Sometimes this comes at no fault of the player since three Meteos occasionally align without any assistance at all. Put in this situation, this luck backfires, and no amount of stylus-swiveling will prevent annihilation. Fortunately, this only becomes a problem during the highest drop rates, and control still largely remains in the hands of the player.
Meteos has a fair share of irony. Many puzzle games have the lasting interest of a rocket - few hours of play are enough to enjoy all the sights. But actually insert rockets and a fusion room into the formula, and the game will last longer than most any flight. It takes a certain level of audacity to combine something as atypical as rockets into a rule-heavy genre that is rather formal and turn-based. For breaking the cliché barrier, Meteos aims for the stars, and though it lands somewhat short, the moon is nice enough.