Overall Score 73%
Outer-Rim Pod Digger
Outer-Rim Pod Digger is a puzzle game with some nods to the classic game Lemmings, although this is normally less frantic because you can set up the level before the men start moving.
Several bubble men, the wobbliest cutest spacemen you'll ever see, are trapped in a series of caverns. You must place certain objects such as girders and lifts to lead them towards their spacecraft, then you click go to see if they reach their ships. If they do, the level is done. Each item has a different price and each level has a budget so therein lies the skill.
The graphics are 2D and clear enough if a little basic. The tile based levels include dirt, rocks, crates, little houses and other things that make up the levels but apart from different worlds, there is no variety in those tiles so a standard game screen is much more functional than beautiful, this game would look pretty much the same on the C64 fifteen years ago. The wavy animation of the bubble men was my highlight of the graphics, the bright glowing men wave arms and legs like a radioactive swimmer waving to the coastguard.
There are very few sound effects and the game could have benefitted more in this area. Those funny spacemen are crying out for a leprichaun voice. The background music is not intrusive and of adequate quality. Volume controls for sound are provided as is the norm, and the front end of the game although not flashy gets the job done.
Generally the interface is nice and easy to use. The levels are unlocked in a steady line so you can't play or see any level until you encounter it which might lead to problems if you can't complete a particularly difficult one. Levels have passwords to unlock them and oddly the game does not remember the latest password from session to session so you have to write it down.
The icons are easy to understand and things like right click to deselect the current item is intuitive. A level editor is provided too, and the simple tutorial is enough to show you the ropes. The HTML manual doesn't tell you much more than you can discover in the game, but curiously the solution to level 8 is shown.
The gameplay works quite well but there are a few niggling problems. There are no solutions on offer, which is a serious omission for a game that progresses in a strict line. More importantly, if you make a mistake and put something in the wrong place there is no undo. This is annoying because your only option is to restart the whole level and remember where you put everything else.
Items can be placed before you click the go button, or you can place items while the men are running and you sometimes need to combine forward planning and reactions. Both experiences are very different and perhaps making the game real time or turn based only would have been better than mixing the two because I suspect that players prefer one game type or the other, not both.
Outer-Rim Pod Digger is not as addictive or frenetic as Lemmings, but it plays as well as most puzzle games in the guide-the-flow mould. The lack of undo, and the passworded linear progression with no solutions harm the game, but the cheery graphics and good presentation make it a valid addition to the existing crop of indie puzzle games.
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