So far it’s been a pretty dismal month at AP. For my part, high among the top ten worst moments are finally finding someone in Canada only to discover they were conscientiously returning my calls about Angst (the game I’ve been trying to review) to an elderly woman in Leaminster, and being buttonholed by a seemingly inexhaustible procession of software house people complaining about our dissemination of the truth concerning the gargantually appalling (‘Michael Jackson – Ed), defending the publication tenaciously on the grounds that nobody likes it (some sort of underdog thing), there are only two people working on the magazine and if you buy (Clause struck – Legal Dept) they’ll give your game (Clause struck – Lega Dept).
Super Loops then. (We’ll keep the letter ‘z’ at the end of the alphabet where it belongs, thanks awfully). The deucedly odd thing about Super Loops is that its exactly the same as Loops except aesthetically: pieces drop randomly on to a board, and by rotating and placing them you have to make shapes that join up in loops.
Once you’ve placed a piece you can’t remove it (except by using a special shape which destroys every part of an incomplete loop it touches rather than single piees) and every tenth loop takes you to a new level.
Build a large and complex loop and some invisible people will cheer and you get to play one of three bonus games: either more of the same but without the loops disappearing, or a puzzle where you’re shown a loop, bits fall out of it and you have to return them to their correct slots, or a screen with bonus fruit you have to smother.
Other modes dispense with the tenth loop/next level ploy (you play on a single level to the death), bring in a second player to help, bring in a second player to battle, and throw those bit-missing loops at you to fill in until you mess up.
It reminded me of two games, did Super Loops: Tetris and Pipemania, but more of the Pipestar later. As with Tetris, the idea is to complete a set number of shapes, with a successfully completed shape rewarding you by disappearing so you put off fatally filling up the screen that vital moment longer. Even the pieces are similar – L-bars, rectangles and those really annoying ones you can never use and have to shove over in a corner.
The tactics are sort of similar as well (look, there is a point to this. Trust me) as you build large ‘outside’ shapes, investing pieces that don’t fit there into vaguely completing ‘inside’ ones.
Where the games diverge is that if you mess up a shape in Super Loops (say, by rotating a piece too far or just slipping up in placing it), that shape is dead. You can’t recover it by replacing the errant section, remember, as your special space-clearing piece destroys every part of an incomplete loop it touches. And, bizarrely, although random, the Super Loops pieces see to be ‘weighted’ towards the big ones late in the game.
This weighting leads to terrible situations where there is clearly no room on the board for the gigantic U you’ve been given but, because you can’t reject the piece, you have to wait for the time limit to run out (and one of your lives to be lost) before you et another bit. Which, of course, could just as easily be a similarly uselessly large piece. Audiogenic say the game ‘senses’ when you need to get rid of incomplete shapes and so will give you a destructive piece but (quite apart from the question of a game ‘cheating’ on your behalf), this feature doesn’t really work at all, delivering either too few destructive pieces or too many.
Large and complex
In one game I’d carefully worked the board so I had five loops needing a piece each, but beacause the number of pieces exceeded the game’s ‘safe’ total (or whatever), it decided to spew out destructive pieces. Seven of them, in fact, all in a row. And because you can’t reject a piece and I obviously didn’t want to remove any of my painstakingly-constructed loops-in-waiting, I had to sit there and wait for the time limit to run out for each one. O-ho.
The Pipemania comparison comes with the pipe/loop look. But unlike Pipemania there’s no sense of urgency to Super Loops. You’re just making the loops for the sake of it. (In Pipemania, you’ll recall, you ahd to connect a tap spilling toxic fluid to a sluice gate).
There’s a time limit to placing apiece, oh yes, and a bee-bee-bee sound as that time limit runs out (although, inexplicably, if you have then place the piece the bee-bee-bee continues for a few more seconds), but it doesn’t work. What you should be feeling is a desperate desire to complete that loop before some terrible disaster befalls you, but what you in fact feel is a slight irritation that there’s nowhere to put this large zig-zag.
There’s something fundamentally wrong with Super Loops, and it is the fact that nothing ever happens. No characters run across the screen and make off with pieces, nothing flows through the loops, there are no ‘special’ pieces to break it up, no cross-sections so you can salvage your work, no bombs to put out, nothing. It’s just you and some piples, for ever. The co-operative two-player mode simply doubles the misery. Only the combative game offers a bit of fun, but you’ll not want to play on after the first couple of bouts. (And the obfuscative snarly-wolf background helps not at all).
Oddly, as I played Super Loops to get screenshots, I found myself on a roll. My game came together, my tactics started working (for example, building loops in halves and not connecting the sections until the last moment so if I blew it I could still save the say) and I galumphed through the bonus levels.
But I wasn’t involved in the game. There was no incentive to keep winning. And that, folks, is the reason I can’t understand why Audiogenic have bestowed new life upon the most dependably dull of puzzlers.