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Review: Johnny Divoe
From the moment you start the game, you're plunged into the world of this casual puzzle game. Brightly-coloured graphics from the undersea world (including happily-grinning sharks) greet you at the start screen, inviting you to play. The atmosphere reminds me immediately of Bejeweled, Alchemy, and many other pick-up-and-play puzzle games.
Gameplay consists of an accessible click-and-play arrangement. Within Johnny Divoe is a deceptively intelligent puzzle format, in the sense that--while you still need to connect three identical shapes in a row--there are unusable blocks that must reach the bottom of the puzzle field in order to not only be cleared, but increase your score multiplier. You'll spend a lot of time indirectly moving the coins: wondering how to eliminate rows beneath them in an effort to earn those bonus points and open up more shapes for matching (as they constantly fill in from above). One curious aspect to this game and its scoring system is that it actually punishes efficiency. What I mean is that it's better for the player to simply remove one set of shapes at a time, instead of arranging shapes for combos of several linked shapes removed simultaneously. Regardless of whether this uncommon feature was planned as part of the design, may other games of this type allow for score bonuses to come along as a benefit to careful planning on the part of the player...I found it perplexing and at least a little frustrating to see several shapes removed in a single turn, when I wanted to rack up not just shapes removed, but also turns in the game (which are added together to determine your score). I'd recommend that Tiles considers implementing some form of bonus or "linked combo" to the game, so that the player is encouraged to plan ahead. Without this combo feature--and perhaps a bonus item or two--the game is lacking when compared to others of its type.
Ever since I laid my eyes on "The Lost Castle" by Tiles, I've loved to see his work. The artwork in both The Lost Castle and Johnny Divoe is bright, colourful, distinctive, and thematically rich. It's fun to simply look at these games, in addition to playing them. That being said, I was expecting a little more in Johnny Divoe. The gameplay background is a vibrant underwater scene, but unfortunately it's static. There's a stream of bubbles that ambles towards the surface from the deep-sea diver on the right hand side of the game screen, but that's it. This is in stark contrast to the fluidly-animated buttons the player clicks to start a New Game (a sleek, smiling shark), for example. Perhaps Tiles was rushed to release this game for some reason, since he really does have talen. I would have rated higher had more animations been featured. Even a few slightly swaying fronds of undersea plant life would have bumped up this score, adding more life to the background without making it too distracting. Tiles, let your talents show! :)
The audio is absolutely appropriate for a puzzle game. The background music--a whimsical, reggae-themed tropical tune--is just the right length so that it never gets old. The ambient sounds of underwater bubbles sucks you into the undersea world of Johnny Divoe. The few other sounds (for example, when the player chooses an incorrect or illegal move) are clearly-audible, and there's no misinterpretation as to what it means when the player hears it. There are also separate sliders available to adjust the background sound and music, to suit player tastes. If I were to be nit-picky, I would suggest the added feature of letting a player select and play their own music tracks during the game. Although I love listening to the music that came with the game, this added touch would allow the player another feature to call their own.
Oh my goodness...This game is a keeper for puzzle fans, hands down. It clearly holds its own against classic games such as Mahjongg and Solitaire (even with the aforementioned gameplay shortcomings). As in many puzzle games of this type, the fun is in the journey, not just the destination. This is evident even more so when you begin to appreciate the strategy involved in removing the coin blocks by inderectly moving them further down the play field. Of course, the high score table is a tantalizing invitation to play more. I've made over 77,000 points as of this writing; hopefully the 80,000 point mark is not too far away.
Johnny Divoe is a fine addition to any puzzle-gamer's collection. It's an enjoyable puzzle game in its own right, and--like the ocean carried so well in its graphical theme--it has hidden depth. Hats off to Tiles for creating such an excellent game. :)
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