Publisher: cdv Software Entertainment
Release Date: Q4 2008
Ah, to be a geek. Geekiness used to be verboten and undesirable. Sure, being smart was useful, but being a geek meant constant comparisons to Steve Urkel and always being the butt of sophomoric humor. My, how times have changed. Thanks to the success of Google, being a geek is now chic, and game developers have picked up on the trend with brain teasers like Brain Age, Capcom Puzzle World, Puzzle Quest and Tetris DS. Building on the theme, CDV is ready to kick things up a notch with its upcoming I Heart Geeks, which just might be a contender for best puzzle game of the year.
As the protagonist, you play a geek on a quest to outsmart the bullies by using your brains rather than your brawn. Along the way, you'll get lessons from other geeks, as they explain how different puzzle pieces work. You see, unlike a traditional puzzle game where you focus on matching up blocks, I Heart Geeks has you building basic machines. Engineer the machine correctly, and you move on to the next level. Fail to get everything working as it should, and you have to start from scratch.
Early puzzles are simple, such as putting gears in the correct place so that a moving platform can get a ball from one side of the screen to another, but the later challenges quickly ramp up in difficultly. By the time you're halfway through the game, things start to look like something out of a mad scientist's diary.
Though you are always given all the tools you need to succeed, the game doesn't always give you much in the way of direction. Instead, it encourages experimentation, allowing you to move pieces around and then test the machine to see if it works. If not, simply tweak your design and try again. Think you're on the wrong path? Just reset the puzzle and start fresh.
While each level has a recommended solution, they are not limited to one hard and fast answer. There are often different ways to achieve the same goal, so creative minds can take to the challenge just as well as masters of logic. Every few levels, players will face off against a boss fight, where the geek has to outsmart a jock. Unlike the standard levels, the boss fights have a time limit so you need to think fast.
What really makes I Heart Geeks shine is the way it incorporates real-world physics with the gameplay. You will end up using gravity, steam, magnets, sponges, fire, and more in order to solve the puzzles on each level. Hitting the crucial "A-ha!" moment on each level is immensely satisfying, especially if you've been racking your brain for a bit and trying to figure out what to do next. The reliance on real-world concepts should also make I Heart Geeks an appealing choice for parents who are looking for a game that they can enjoy with their kids. While adult gamers will love I Heart Geeks for the challenge, younger gamers can use it to see that there really is a practical use for all they stuff they learned in science class — getting a higher score!
Most of I Heart Geeks is a single-player experience, but the game also features a limited multiplayer mode. Two players compete via Wi-Fi in order to see who can complete a puzzle first. Unfortunately, the multiplayer mode only allows you to compete on the same puzzles that appear in the single-player portion, so it really becomes more of a memory challenge than a logic challenge. If the developers can add a random level generator to the multiplayer mode before the game ships, it would make the multiplayer just as addictive as the single-player.
Though the concept is simple in I Heart Geeks, the execution is near perfect. The early version we played has a few rough edges, but the core game is incredibly addicting. Pick up this one, and it's easy to loose track of time as you attempt to solve "just one more puzzle." Pop this one in your DS, and you'll soon be singing the praises of geeks along with everyone else. Just stay away from the nerds. They're always plotting revenge.
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