Sunday, May 16, 2010

Four Quarter Frenzy - Fumbo

The one thing I hate about all those neat-looking puzzle games at Borders or Target (Rush Hour comes to mind) is that they all look like they're made for six year olds. It's a sad way to look at it, but I just feel silly buying them and, unfortunately because of that, I don't. I really should rethink this policy, however, as I had the same thought when looking at Point Break's XBLIG title, Fumbo. After a short amount of time with the game, the kiddie appearance left my mind and I was faced with a game that tested my mind like any good logic problem should.

Fumbo, at first glance, looks like a rotating puzzle game for kids. You're given a bunch of square puzzle pieces with 2-4 sides of it having one half of an animal (tiger, rhino, zebra, or monkey). Your goal is to put each piece in the right spot and facing the correct way on the puzzle board, be it the easy one (4x4) or the harder ones (6x6 and 7x7). It's essentially one part jigsaw puzzle, one part logic problem, all challenging.

The visuals and sounds of Fumbo have an African theme to them. Aside from the fact that your pieces include 1/2 of the cast of Madagascar, the background is a waving field of tall grass and you see the occasional animal shadow. The music has a sort of tribal feel to it (if a bit stereotyped), and the sound effect for selecting a piece is "Ooh!" For some odd reason, I didn't get tired of this, and if I was stuck or frustrated I just mashed the A button a lot to help myself feel better. My girlfriend, however, probably thought I was insane by the end of it between doing that and singing along with the catchy background music. I suppose that's the sign of a good soundtrack (all one song of it) if it gets in someone's head, and it's probably in mine for the rest of my natural born life.

I don't think I'll spend much time talking about the controls. You move, you select, you rotate, and move some more, and put the piece down. The only other button you can push is the "Cheat" button that shows you the answer. It also sounds a loud air raid siren, making you feel horrible about what you just did. As it should, you cheaterface. There's no time limit or move limit, so even if you do mess up or take a while there's no real penalty. This allows you to sit back and think about your moves, something I enjoy doing when it comes to something like this.

I had very few issues with this game. The only thing I wish it had was an ability to zoom in a little. The 7x7 grid on Hard was a bit of a strain on the eyes when trying to figure out what half (head, butt, left, or right) of the animal I was looking at, and it gave me a slight headache after a little while. Otherwise, with puzzles taking anywhere from a few minutes on Easy to twenty minutes or so on Hard, there's a good challenge available for anyone.

Obviously, not every puzzle game is for everyone. However, most puzzle fans will have a good time with Fumbo. Despite the somewhat younger appearance of the game, it offers a decent challenge to most minds out there, and at only a buck it's a pretty decent value. If you're looking for something to test your mind rather than your reflexes, try the demo for this. You'll know before the trial is over if it's for you.

Fumbo is available on XBox Live for 80 MS Points. Finished a puzzle on Easy and Medium, and started one on Hard before my head started hurting. Also annoyed myself, my girlfriend, and my cats with singing the background music during and after the game. Seriously, it's that catchy. Consider yourself warned.

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