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Bricks and Balls: Two eSoft Games get an Update
By Allen Gall, Copyright 2002

Revised 8/5/2002

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Phillippines-based, multi-platform software company eSoft (the first such Filipina software company, according to their Web site), is largely known for their small but solid stable of Pocket PC games, such as Marble Mania, Traffic Jam, Cubeex, the free title Space Shuffle, and a few others.  All of these games are very playable, with buoyant, cartoony graphics, catchy music and sound effects, and addictive game play.  Recently, eSoft updated two of its more popular titles: Marble Mania (based on Bejeweled) and Cubeex (sort of a cross between Tetris and Bubblet).  Based on traditional formulas, many games such as these sell for $19.95 and more.  eSoftís versions are currently priced aggressively at only $6 each.  So do they stand out from the pack?  Letís take a look.

Marble Mania 2

ESoftís original Marble Mania was an enjoyable, addictive, and engrossing game that was every bit as good as the game on which it was basedóI included it in my Top Ten Puzzle Games article for Pocket PC magazine back in April.  The new version of the game includes better graphics and sound, including some new features.  Probably the biggest change is that the balls are now mounted at odd angles on the board instead of at right angles.  This makes the game more challenging since itís a little more difficult to identify potential matches when youíre used to them being directly horizontal or vertical.

The matches in Marble Mania 2 occur at angles, and sometimes theyíre easier to identify using ball sets that have patterns.

Other features are what weíve come to expect of recent offerings in the action-puzzle genre: two modes of game play (timed or progressive), a hint feature, adjustable game speed, and continuous background music.  One interesting feature that this game shares with Cubeex 2 is a battery meter, which is very helpful for those who like to play games in marathon stretches.  MM2 is one of those games that you can spend hours on, and since it extracts a heavy price from your battery, itís nice to be able to keep track of how much power you have left without having to exit the program.  In addition to the in-game scoreboard, scores can be posted to the eSoft Web site, although youíll have to go through a somewhat draconian process of entering a special number generated after you finish your game. 

Cubeex 2

Cubeex is a bit odd, but itís a pretty good game.  First, itís one of those games where you remove blocks of the same color, the goal being to consolidate the largest possible block of one color to get a high score.  Itís a simple concept, but one that requires some degree of strategy to get the blocks (or balls, bricks, blobs, etc.) to fall in just the right place.  Cubeex also has an element of Tetris, since the blocks rise from the bottom, and if any row reaches the top, the game is over.

Cubeex 2 looks and plays like a winner.

          

            Cubeex 2 is an interesting implementation.  The combination of Tetris and Bubblet seems to work pretty well, although sometimes I felt like I was playing two gamesóat times I would get bogged down in consolidating a large chunk of blocks only to find that one of the columns had reached the top; other times, in more advanced levels, I would simply end up tapping any matching pairs I could find as the game moved faster and faster.  The game now includes a dedicated soundtrack, level bonuses, and additional cubeexes, some good, some bad.  Like in Marble Mania 2, youíll find the on-screen battery meter and high score ranking features. 

 

A Nice Pair    

Although many have grown tired of simple action-puzzle games, favoring titles more similar to whatís available on desktop PCs, thereís no denying that the market for games like Cubeex 2 and Marble Mania 2 is significant, especially among those who only occasionally play games.  For those who like the action-puzzle genre, both of these games have ample amounts of addictive, fast-paced game play, with enough cute animation, punchy sound effects, and entertaining music to get gamers hooked and keep them that way.  With a price tag of $6.99 each and an impressive attention to quality and detail, these two updated titles are a worthy addition to Pocket PC gamerís library.

Allen Gall is a freelance game reviewer and the games editor for Pocket PC FAQ. If you have a game you'd like Allen to review, you can e-mail him at [email protected] PC FAQ

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