The puzzle genre just works on Xbox Live Arcade, whatever the game, longevity is guaranteed. This is the case with upcoming puzzler Space Ark, a hybrid of games like Breakout, Bubble Bobble and Peggle it could become a huge seller when released later in the year. We went hands on with an early demo build to see if this could dethrone the aforementioned puzzle greats.
Space Ark’s closest relative would be the classic arcade game Breakout, with you moving a trampoline across the bottom of the screen to bounce a cheerful animal in order to collect glowing spheres; the usual fare. Each stage takes place on a spherical world, which means that the ‘board’ ahead of you becomes cylindrical as the levels increase in difficulty. This means that you can often only see a small section of the screen at once, a slight change from the basic nature of Breakout. With the ‘ball’ being a living creature in Space Ark, you can also move while in mid-air, vital if you are to get those tricky spheres at the top of each screen.
This is much more tactical than Breakout though, combos playing an important role as you must collect orbs of the same colour in a row in order to keep your combo high. If you collect another colour, you may not reach the combo quota for that stage, even if you ‘complete’ it. This makes Space Ark that bit tougher, and in turn much more enjoyable than most puzzlers, thinking where your bouncing animal will land and where you direct him in flight is vital when attempting to 100% stages.
In terms of modes on offer in Space Ark, we were only able to play the opening part of Mission Mode, though the full game is set to feature both Time Attack and Survival Modes. Mission Mode is the meat of the game though, and with 5 planets, each of which hosting multiple pods-stages are played through each of these-there looks to be plenty of content.We played through the first planet, which featured 4 pods of stages, although it is unknown if this ratio will continue as you progress through the game.
The game looks great right now too, the light-hearted style of the animals adding a playful nature. The game is slick too, and stands up against other relevant puzzlers on the Xbox Live Marketplace right now. Cutesy sounds and cute characters make this an enjoyable way to experience such solid puzzle gameplay.
However the game develops across the stages that follow, things are looking promising for Space Ark. As a puzzler, it’s not overly complicated but features just enough challenge to make longevity inevitable. Look for a full review when the game comes to XBLA in the near future.