Scrambled, not stirred.
When I was a kid, I hated eggs. That horrible sulfuric smell oozing out of the kitchen like a silent, vengeful fart...*shudder*. If the yolk was visible or if the food in question was ovular, the alarms would go off and I'd run away. The eggs had to be hidden, stir-fried into Mu-Shu Chicken or buried away in a cake.
After many, many years, I finally began to eat eggs, but I'm hardly an "egg maniac." Omelets are tasty and I'm fine with 'em scrambled, but hard-boiled eggs are still too stinky - the Chinese delicacy of "Thousand Year Old Eggs" still sickens me.
Kemco's new puzzle game, Egg Mania: Eggstreme Madness, is a vestige of eggy propaganda and a reversal of the ground rules of Tetris. It's definitely a step in the right direction, but it isn't about to make me like eggs any more.
Egg Mania is additive rather than subtractive. With Tetris, you are constantly breaking structures down, trying to minimize the playing field through shepherded destruction. Egg Mania reverses that philosophy, imploring the player to build upwards, constructing a sturdy tower to reach the heavens.
Instead of simply controlling the puzzle pieces, you control a little egg character that runs and hops about the playing field, catching pieces and setting them in place. Thus, the game comes out as a mixture of platformer and puzzler.
The action begins when you are dropped from a hot air balloon into a narrow trench. At the same time, an opposing egg falls into a parallel trench, setting up a duel of construction. Puzzle pieces steadily fall from the sky. If you catch one, you can rotate and manipulate it before finally dropping it in place. Pieces come in varying shapes, composed of 1 to 5 blocks, similar to tetrads.
In addition to the different pieces, attack items are dropped from above. The bomb item can be thrown at your opponent's trench; after a set amount of time it explodes, blowing up several blocks. Watch out, though, because the bomb can easily be thrown back and forth. There's also a hammer item that can knock whole pieces off a structure. If you clock your opponent with the hammer, you'll send them temporarily into the briny deep.
By completing horizontal lines, bonus blocks are randomly awarded, littered across your progressing skyscraper. Successfully completing subsequent rows increases the bounty of bonus blocks, thereby speeding up your progress.
While you build, the water level steadily rises and monsters will fly about trying to slow you down. Yep, monsters. Don't ask me why.
In games like Tetris Attack and Puyo Puyo, chains of attack can be planned several moves in advance. Prior attempts to build combinations into Tetris have utterly failed (The Next Tetris). The combos in Egg Mania tend to be spur of the moment, especially since the bonus blocks appear randomly.
Players can climb down their structures in order to fill in missed empty gaps. However, time will be lost. A balance meter on the bottom of the playing field indicates each structure's risk of collapse. If you leave too many empty holes, the structure will topple, delaying upward progress with lost lines and lost time.
For the record, I don't understand what exactly this game has to do with eggs, aside from the little egg characters. Maybe the eggs are building the proverbial wall of Humpty Dumptian lore. Well, whatever.
Egg Mania features good, cartoony graphics. The backgrounds come in a variety of flavors, from pagodas to haunted houses. The sound effects are cute, and the musical tunes are somewhat catchy. All in all, the graphics and sound aren't bad... but why does it take so long to load?
The load times are indeed painful. Video snippets of the challenging egg character are shown to soften the lengthy load up, but it just takes too long. If you are playing a versus game, use the custom settings and select infinite matches, or else you'll end up cracking over the number of load times.
The flow of attacks in an Egg Mania versus game isn't as fluid as some other puzzle games, but with the right custom settings, you can at least make the matches even out. The rate of monster attacks and what special items drop down can be individually adjusted to balance the games. When the two-player matches even out, it becomes a furious race to the top.
But this balance isn't there in the single-player game. There's just something missing. I mean, look at Tetris - it's so simple, yet it works so well. A reversal of those goals creates Egg Mania, but then they have to toss in monsters and water and bombs and hammers and...you get the idea. It's just too much silly stuff to deal with and takes away from the point, which is to rotate pieces and build towers.
All these different elements end up weighing the game down instead of meshing together. Dumping too much on top of the simple goal only serves to bury it. Egg Mania is a clever offshoot of the Tetris formula, but winds up rather overcooked.