Day 192: Acupwnture

Posted: 2011/05/20 in Indie Games

I’m purchasing an Xbox Live Indie Game (XBLIG) every day, seeking out the quality titles that got lost in the shuffle and are not well represented in the top 50 lists on the Xbox Dashboard. Today is day #192, and today’s game is “Acupwnture”.

When is a game much, much better than its name? When that game is Acupwnture (which, since “pwn” is meant to be pronounced “own”, really makes no sense to me at all). However, past the silly name is a fantastic and easily recommended strategic puzzle game, with plenty of modes and options, for 80 Microsoft Points.

First, from the developer (FourthDimensional):

“Acupwnture is a frantically paced strategic puzzle game based on the 5 movements of the Wu Xing. Form bombs from the volatile ancient elements and absorb their Qi energy as they explode. 50+ levels, 4 modes of play, high score tables and a stunning soundtrack. Get AcuPwned!”

If you’ve played Puzzle Fighter before (the Street Fighter-themed puzzle game), then you already have a basic grasp of the mechanics. You strategically drop pieces to create chain explosions. Where they begin to differ is in the details, and that’s where Acupwnture does a good job of differentiating itself. The game has you eliminating blocks to create bombs (that will help you get rid of yet more blocks), but you also must collect the five traditional Chinese elements: fire, water, metal, wood, and stone. Each level you’re trying to beat the clock: it’s not enough to simply clear the playfield over and over, you must also make sure you’re clearing enough of each colour to build up your store of each element. As the timer counts down, you will be assaulted at two pre-ordained points on the timer by the elements (stone may drop to raise your pieces higher in the playfield, fire may destroy random blocks and get in the way of you collecting enough of each element in time, etc.).

There are four modes of play:

– Standard Mode has the player picking a starting element; 4 blocks of the same colour (ie. element) must be formed into the shape of a square to generate a bomb, after which the player has five turns to add to the bomb (and reset the turn counter), build up a colour chain leading from the bomb to clear a section of the playfield, or (if you’re happy with the disposition of your blocks) just wait out the five turns until they detonate (though being mindful of the overtime time limit)

– Challenge Mode which is a mission-based mode challenging you to clear certain types of element, etc.

– Continuous Mode which is a more traditional play style where you mostly have to worry about the blocks reaching the top of the playfield

– Practice Mode where you can practice forming bombs, chains, and combos.

Presentation is strong and colourful, with background music that suits the game well. You can save the game which, surprisingly, not all puzzle games let you do and is therefore a welcome feature. There is a bit of a learning curve, but a bit of time first with Challenge Mode (whose mission-based gameplay forces the player to learn and improve technique) and Practice Mode (which allows the player to hone specific techniques) and you’ll be well in the groove. Highly recommended for innovative gameplay, strong presentation, and a fantastic price.

Click here to download “Acupwnture”, and then please come back after playing to rate the game.

Know someone else who would want to read the review, or rate the game? “Share This” and invite them to.

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