Publisher: O3 Entertainment
Release Date: October 31, 2006
Portable gaming systems have always been known for their puzzle games. The original Game Boy launched into the market on the strength of the classic block-dropper Tetris, and the PlayStation Portable's first big title was the hyper-addictive Lumines. It should come as no surprise that the Nintendo DS, with its unique touch-screen, is home to many of these addictive time-wasters, from classic remakes like Magnetica and Tetris DS to innovative new titles like Meteos and Polarium. Unfortunately, not every puzzle game manages to hit a home run, and sadly, Konductra is one of those.
Konductra's main mode of gameplay, score, takes place in a grid, surrounded by white and grey "conductors." As the game begins, two colored blocks appear in a box above the grid. By using the stylus, the player can highlight any two squares in the grid and place those colored blocks in that spot. A timer counts down while the player makes his choice, and if it reaches the bottom, the blocks are placed randomly on the board. There are five kinds of blocks: red, yellow, green, blue and the white Link.
The overall goal of the game is simple: Form a line of same-colored blocks from one conductor to another of the same color. The player then uses the stylus to highlight those blocks, and any of the same color touching them. From then on, the player has two choices. The first option is to activate the conductor, which destroys all of the highlighted blocks. However, if there is another line of blocks touching two of the same colored conductors as the first set, the player may move the stylus along the conductors and then across that line to create a "combo," which allows him or her to multiply their points. The more combos you complete, the greater the multiplier. Also aiding in the creation of combos is the Link block. When placed between two squares of differing hues, the switch block allows the player to highlight the second color as if it were the first. Like most puzzle games, the more lines you clear, the faster the game becomes, and play continues until there are no free spaces left on the board when a block drops.
In all honesty, Konductra isn't very fun. The theory behind it is interesting enough, but it lacks the both simplicity and fun of Tetris or Meteos or the depth of more complex games. The biggest problem comes with the awkward stylus control. Placing blocks is simple enough, although it's a bit too easy to accidentally "cancel" your drop by moving a square too far. The frustrating part is that the highlighting feature is a bit too unreliable, especially when trying to perform a combo from one conductor to another, and it's far too easy to lose a combo for no apparent reason. While you can just pick up the combo again, the ever-present timer quickly grows to be a drag, and rather than actual challenge, it just feels like poor design.
Besides the main score mode, Konductra offers two other modes of play: Versus and Task. Versus mode pits the player either against another human or the computer in a competition. Both players race to perform combos and score as many lines as possible before their opponent. Successful combos turn over some of your opponent's blocks, changing them into unplayable "flipped" tiles until they flip them back over by tapping them with a stylus. A straight line creates garbage blocks that must be "conducted" twice to destroy them.
This mode can also be played over Nintendo's wi-fi service with other players who have the game. Versus mode adds a bit of flavor to Konductra's otherwise dull gameplay, especially when played against another human. Unfortunately, it still suffers from all the mechanical problems that plague the single-player version. The stylus controls are still too unreliable and twitchy, and the gameplay itself still is lackluster. The addition of the garbage and flip blocks is interesting, but the flip blocks are too simple to really be a bother. The wi-fi mode is a nice addition, but as of this review, finding someone to play online with is a difficult task.
Task mode is similar to the Puzzle mode found in Tetris DS. The top screen shows a particular combination of blocks, and the player must form a combo comprised of those blocks. As the gamer advances deeper into Task mode, the puzzles get more and more complex, requiring longer combos and more intense use of switch blocks to complete. Of Konductra's three gameplay modes, Task is the most interesting. Creating the exact combos is a bit too easy due to the freeform placing, but it can still provide enough of an interesting challenge to make it the game's most worthwhile mode. The stylus problems plague this mode as well, but without the element of competition, they're not as bothersome as in Versus mode.
As a puzzle game, Konductra isn't expected to be a graphical powerhouse, and it isn't. The menu screens are graphically unimpressive and unwieldy (rather than simply picking an option, you must "highlight" it as if you were playing the game). The game board itself is simplistic and rather dull to look at, with only four colors and a non-existent background. When compared to the bursting colors of Lumines or the Nintendo-inspired boards of Tetris DS, it just looks boring.
Konductra does manage to pull off a pretty good soundtrack. Trance-like peppy music plays over the gameplay, oddly out of sync with some of the early gameplay, although it does a better job of matching more intense difficulty levels. One nice addition is the game's full-voiced tutorial, although the game is not really complex enough to require such a detailed feature.
In the end, Konductra just isn't worth the time. With lackluster gameplay and difficult controls, it's not fun for hardcore gamers or those looking for a quick way to waste time, especially at the far-from-bargain price of $30. With superior games like Tetris DS and Meteos available, gamers are advised to give this a pass unless they're desperate for a new puzzle game.
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