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The newest game from Angry Birds developer Rovio, Amazing Alex is a puzzle game drastically different from that of Rovio’s most famous work. Gone are the slingshots and superpowered birds, instead replaced by a slower puzzler with a much more cognitive approach.
Amazing Alex tasks players with constructing Rube Goldberg-type machines in order to execute specified tasks. It works in a continuing order, where one event triggers the rest in succession. An 8-ball causes a boxing glove to punch a stack of books, which causes a ball to roll down a ramp, and so forth, until the eventual goal is accomplished.
At first glance, this sounds like a genius design in the same vein as a game such as Cut the Rope, where physics are a major staple in the gameplay and players must use a more right-brained approach to help solve the puzzles.
And for the most part, it works really well. The physics are responsive and stay true to real life principles, and the different objects offered to you to complete a puzzle all have their own advantages. Different stages introduce new principles and objects, and it constantly feels like something new, avoiding repetition in level design. There’s even a section of the game dedicated to allowing the ambitious gamer to design and share their own puzzles with other players a la Little Big Planet.
The learning curve for the game is gradual as well, allowing you to really start to connect the dots for yourself as it works its way up to eventually letting you have complete control over your approach to a level.
Where the game falls short, however, is its lack of intuitive design. Within every level, players must solve a puzzle, be it landing a ball in a basket or simply launching something to the other side of the environment. And on top of solving the main objective, there are three stars in every level located in various places that will challenge you to approach the level in a new way to collect all of them, as well as complete the main objective.
Now, the added challenge makes for a clever idea, but the execution does not. In an effort to help you gain these stars, the game gives you a wide array of objects to use for each level, which leads to a long and tedious trial-and-error process in order to complete a simple task. There’s no real “aha!” moments that make a good puzzle game, and the satisfaction of solving a level is vastly overshadowed by the amount of frustration experienced to get there.
All in all, Amazing Alex is an attempt to cash in on Rovio’s extreme success as a developer. It’s a solid game, but the fun of it is quickly lost on frustrating puzzles and cumbersome design. It’s not satisfying, it’s not challenging in a fun way, and the open creative potential is jeopardized by it lack of intuitive gameplay. It’s a decent puzzle game at best, but it sadly does not live up to the legacy of Angry Birds.