As someone who is greatly fond of puzzle games, most of my younger years was spent with genre more than any other. Everything from the Lemmings willing to commit mass suicide chucking themselves off cliffs until you intervene to the iconic Tetris conjure up some delightful memories of my youth and most likely the reason why I still easily gravitate to the genre to this day. However, if you were to ask my opinion on a little game called “Minesweeper, a game I was so awful at (and still remain to this day), that it would make its principal creator rollover in his/her in disgust, repressed memories shadowed by shame and anguish would be the only answer. With ManaCollect, a game that is an action x puzzle hybrid inspired by the aforementioned, I thought my torment would be reborn anew, but instead turned into a weird pleasure. Frankly, I just kept getting my butt kicked and kept coming back for more. That’s either a sign of an unhealthy relationship or a solid game. I’m tempted to say the former, but the latter rings true.
Genre: Strategy, Action
Developer: Tazigen Clock (Localized by Fruitbat Factory)
System: PC (Steam Store)
As aforementioned ManaCollect is a game that is very reminiscent to Minesweeper with a competitive streak where two opponents enter a battle of wits, speed, and little luck on a hexagonal grid to collect hidden mana that will help in depleting the oppositions. Intimidating as that might sound, the game is actually very simple to get the hang of, but also somewhat difficult to put into use elegantly considering the frantic nature of play. Before you start any game, you get to choose a character out of nine possible choices to play as – each boasting their own unique abilities (more on this later) that can be used during the match. As you start playing, the objective is to simply collect mana that is hidden on the grid behind different number titles that usually act as hint. For example: if your standing on a “0“ surrounded by “1‘s“ you most likely can lay a marker down or see “2“ then guarantees that there are 2 locations adjacent where a marker can be placed. If you try to place a marker where mana isn’t, your character will temporarily stumble causing you waste available seconds you could be searching for mana as well as lose the markers you already placed giving your opponent a slight advantage. Likewise, if you manage to continue successfully laying down markers in rapid succession, a chain will occur that will generate more mana than you would get from searching out a single marker, so the game does reward expedient play as it does favor the cautious. Once you collect all the mana available, the layer will refresh restarting the process anew, but if you have a sufficient amount you can begin the real objective of reducing the other players health to 0 using the mana you collected. Think in terms of the card game Yu-gi-oh: If you collected 1500 points of mana, that is how much damage will dealt to their health. However, since the opposition can opt to defend during this phase and has lets say 1600 points, your attack will be nulled and opponent left with 100 points in reverses to be able to get the lead on attacking you. It is nothing too terribly interesting of note, but does give the game a slight layer of strategic maneuvering as well as making matches quick and stimulating affairs – especially amongst friends. That said, it is a shame that the game only has a local multiplayer for those that care about that option or find the single player CPU too dogmatic.
If you ever find yourself bored with a particular game mode, ManaCollect has 4 distinct modes that retain the same general gameplay, but do have small twist added on. There is a 4 chapter storyline mode, take on 8 CPU opponents in succession with Tournament mode, try to clear a set number of layers without making too many mistakes in Dungeon mode, and Free Battle mode allows you to battle the CPU and friends alike while setting various parameter such as the time limit, starting mana, difficulty, and stage. And for those like their games with the graphical capabilities to boot, HD support (720p for nerds that like stats) is also an option that not only goes great with the anime artwork, but performs consistently, too. Regrettably, for all the niceties that manages to cloak any insignificant flaws, my one and only protest goes back to the single player option and the CPU controlled adversary that seemingly is too good at playing the game.
Even on the lowest difficulty setting the CPU does seem to be near omnipotent or at the very least – aware of where most of the mana is on the grid. Granted my inexperience might have contributed to this point of view as I clearly didn’t have a firm grasp on how to play during the very beginning, aside from the lax tutorial, new players could possibly find their dumbed down challenger in the other modes not as inept as they hoped. Remember those character specific skills I mentioned earlier? As much as they can be a strategic savior for you, they can also become a cruel captor used in the hands of the CPU. Skills can only be used when a bar on side of the screen fills up and once used, take a fairly liberal amount of time to refill again. The skills only last for a few seconds and range from everything to swapping places with the player to blocking their access to certain areas on the grid. Sometimes, skill usage can very well mean the difference between losing and winning a match, but again, the CPU – no matter the setting seems to work on unfathomable level of reasoning – spamming skills whenever the opportunity presents itself. On the flip side, the CPU’s erratic play style does come in handy as practice dealing with certain types of players that like to stoop to similar mischief.
It fills my heart with cheer to see older ideas get new takes, and while ManaCollect might not be the absolute best, it is good enough for a game that I probably wouldn’t have played at all in its unadulterated form again. Given the easy to pick up and play style mixed with a few unique twist, an easy recommendation can be passed to all, yet most likely will only resonate with those seeking friendly competition – something that the CPU sadly can’t provide or a little something off the beaten path. Either way, whether you are playing against the vindictive CPU, with friends in close proximity, or challenging your own limits in the Dungeon mode, ManaCollect is nothing short of a good time and a title I’m sure many will like if given the chance.
Pros: Nicely detailed tutorial, easy to learn, HD support, artstyle, several of differential game modes, inventive core gameplay mechanics, character skills add an extra dimension of strategy, local multiplayer.
Cons: uneven difficulty for CPU controlled character, lack of online multiplayer.
Disclaimer: In no way, shape, or form was I compensated for the composition or publication of this review. This by my own volition. A review copy of the game was kindly provided by Fruitbat Factory. All images and rights to them belong to Fruitbat Factory/Tazigen Clock and only for review purposes.