Coming off of reviewing Atum for Palm, I was pretty surprised to see
Molecule drop into my inbox. Atum, as I found out, was a covert tongue
in cheek name for atom. AIM Productions has always charmed with their
polished and professional looking puzzle titles. Molecule is no
exception to that rule. Similar to what I found in Atum, it involves
matching little atoms together. You have to use various colored atoms
to construct molecules as deemed appropriate by the game.
In the first few levels, these are quite simple. You have to construct
a few molecules that contain two atoms. Atoms will fall into your test
tube at certain intervals and if your test tube overflows with atoms,
you lose the game. After you achieve that goal, the game gets
consistently more difficult, usually due to what types of atoms the test
tube dispenses. With three varying difficulty levels, it should keep
even the Mensa people happy too. You play the game in landscape format
on the PDA. Similar to a mouse cursor, you have an on-screen hand that
helps facilitate manipulating the various atoms. You can place atoms,
move atoms on the grid and replace atoms. Obviously an atom with four
electrons (physicists and chemists humor me here) will be at the center
of your molecular designs.
Although the game is simple to grasp, the on screen cursor takes some
time to get used to since not many titles on the handheld platform have
this function. Unlike RTS titles, I found in this case it wasn't a
must-have, but it certainly helped. The hand is animated when you pick
up atoms or rearrange them in your molecules. I found the best way was
to throw out the drag and drop stylus mentality we're all used to. I
know it's a simple thing to grasp in retrospect, but it took me awhile
to know how best to take advantage of the interface.
Should there be any trouble, the developers have included a full-blown
tutorial to help you get started in the game. I guess the whole title
was pretty intuitive to me considering I've had experiences drawing
organic compounds in high school, but for those who stopped all serious
scientific studies at age 14, you can easily pick this title up.
There's a fully animated tutorial to teach you how to navigate the
game's interface in addition to illustrating the rules and process of
how to build molecules.
Overall, Molecule maintains a minimalist approach to its theme. You get
some varied pastel-like colors as well as fadeouts but in general, the
artistry is kept to a minimum. I think every AIM Productions title I've
come across featured a soundtrack. This one is no exception but the
style of music is more subdued, perhaps owing to the minimalist or
barren theme. It keeps the size of the title down and with broad
support for all Pocket PC models, is definitely not demanding on
High quality textures were used for the title. As such, whenever
Molecule is started, it takes a few noticeable but brief moments to kick
the software in gear. In 'Done in 50 Seconds', there was a progress bar
to do this, but the developers have opted to for a more stylish blur-out
effect this time. Setting up the title is just as easy as the game
itself. It takes a short while and involves a little command line work
(done automatically) to install the title on to your handheld.
Molecule is not an overly frenetic or tedious puzzle title. However, I
found the visuals to be sterile and there could have been many effects
to make the title more attractive or exciting. There's also no avenue
to expand this title or change its pace. For example, I thought it
would have been equally interesting if some of the levels entailed
rearranging pre-selected atoms on an already played out molecule board,
instead of the usual beat the clock mode. Furthermore, the higher
difficulty goals could be less repetitive if the game had opted to
introduce more chemical concepts like certain atoms must go together or
certain atoms can only exist in molecules of such a size. Finally,
there's not much of a sense of progress in the title. The objectives
progress in difficulty but you certainly don't get any sense of it.
Perhaps it would have been more visceral if the player had to climb up
the periodic table, or better yet, somehow structure each level around
the elements in the periodic table.
The initial premise of Molecule is very cleverly thought out. It takes
something that most of us take for granted and turns it into a puzzle.
It certainly is the bigger brother, in terms of sophistication, to the
Atum title I mentioned earlier, but not by much. The laid back visuals
certainly do not obfuscate the fact that at its core, this is an
intriguing treatise on what is usually a fairly dull subject. If only
it were able to incorporate a few more chemical rules then it would
easily be a chemist or physicist's heaven.
[10/10] Program Size
[14/15] Learning Curve
[ N/A ] Multiplayer