Thursday, February 25, 2010

Four Quarter Frenzy -- Gerbil Physics

Quick story about this game. I had the full intention of buying this a while ago after immensely enjoying the trial. The thing that pushed me over the edge, though, was that I wanted to play and finish the game for this month's theme (puzzle games). So, a few days prior, I sat down on the couch while waiting for a pizza delivery and threw my 80 MS Points at Pencel Games, hoping to put a dent in the game. 30 minutes later, the pizza arrived and I only had two of the 24 stages left. A few slices of pizza later and I had nothing left to do in the game. Normally it's difficult for me to recommend such a short game. This time, however, I can't help but do exactly that.

Gerbil Physics is a very simple physics puzzle game with a large layer of cute on top. You're given a fixed amount of tools, usually bombs but also ropes and erasers, and must knock all the blocks and balls under a red line. The cute factor is that each block and ball has an adorable gerbil inside that reacts to each explosion, bounce, fall, tug, and whatever other action or reaction you cause.

The presentation, as stated, is full of cute. Set a bomb next to a bunch of gerbils and their eyes become huge in anticipation. Send them below the red goal line and they have a face full of content. The attention to detail turns the simple gameplay into a memorable experience. The sound follows this as well. Each gerbil makes the cutest, WUTIEST noises or asks things like, "Is this safe?" "Is that a rope?" I won't lie and say that hearing "Is that a rope?" over and over didn't get slightly annoying but, with a game that only lasts an hour, this is barely a concern.

The simple point and click mechanics are handled about as well as point and click needs to be. Point to a spot, hit one of the three appropriate buttons (one for each tool) and have at it. The only other thing you need to do is, while using the rope, drag whatever gerbil you've got hooked, which is handled with no frustration on the part of the control scheme.

As I said, a playthrough lasts less than an hour. Some of the stages award you Wipeout Stars for completing it in a certain (though hidden) way. Most of the time it's by only using one item. Even after going back and doing this, even if you struggle with some of the tasks, you'll probably complete everything within two hours, tops. After that, there isn't really any replay value. Still, it's difficult not to enjoy that movie-length amount of time, and you'll easily get your dollar's worth in smiles.

Gerbil Physics, from Pencel Games, is available on XBox Live for 80 MS Points. The reviewer played through and then went back for each star. He would like to say, once and for all...yes, gerbils. It's an effing rope.

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