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Koloomn PSP

Published by 505 Gamestreet
Developed by Cyber Front
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £29.99

Koloomn, an introduction.

Whilst the Nintendo DS seems to have many great puzzle games to keep gamers on the move occupied, the same can not be said for the Sony PSP. The launch title Lumines still stands as the best puzzle game on the system and with six months having passed since the PSP launched in the UK, that's pretty disappointing. More puzzle games are due to arrive in the near future though and here we have the first of them, Koloomn.

What's the game about?

Koloomn is another one of those block-based puzzle games that on first glance doesn't look anything special but once played, is difficult to put down. The game has the appearance of being a Tetris clone but whilst it shares some similarities with that timeless classic there are enough differences here to make the game feel unique. The game has several modes that are split between Single Play and Multi Play menus. The modes found on the Single Play screen are Single Play, Training Solo and Tutorial. Completing the Tutorials will also unlock a Puzzle Challenge Mode. The Multi Play menu contains modes where you'll play against an opponent (either AI or human) and has an Arcade Mode, a Campaign mode, a Vs. CPU mode and a Wireless Match mode.

What's good about the game?

Like all good puzzle games, Koloomn is easy to learn but difficult to master. The basic idea is to connect four or more blocks of the same colour either horizontally or vertically (diagonally doesn't count). The cursor you control covers 4 blocks (it's a 2x2 square) and the blocks that your cursor covers can be rotated to the left or to the right. As you play the blocks move up the screen (you can always see what the next row of blocks to emerge will be and indeed you can even call up this next level if you want to) and should any blocks hit the top of the screen, it's game over. It seems simple enough but that's just the basics and there's more to the game. When you correctly set up 4 blocks of a certain colour, they won't just disappear. You have a second or two whilst the blocks blink to add more blocks of the same colour, which allows you to get a higher score.

Chains can also be set up by making other blocks of a certain colour connect, as your initial connecting blocks disappear. This is actually a desirable thing to do as it will earn magical blocks that can really do some damage. Connecting two chains will earn you an Arrow Block. When an Arrow Block is set up in a group of four all of the blocks in the direction the arrow on the block is facing will turn that colour and therefore will disappear with the original four blocks. Three chains will earn you a Bomb Block. Bomb blocks will change the colour of every block around it to the same colour, which means they too will disappear. Four chains will give you a Flush Block. When a Flush Block is involved in a block of four then every block of that colour will disappear making it a very desirable block to earn. A combo can also be attained by a magical block being set off as a result of the effect of another magical block. Combos can take out many blocks at a time, although they are difficult to create.

In a versus game there are other strategies (in the form of special attacks) and it's here where the game really shines. Removing a large amount of blue blocks will result in huge blocks falling onto your opponent's side. Removing a large amount of purple blocks will result in a block of the same colour (that are next to each other) becoming glued. Joining a large amount of red blocks will make your opponent's cursor much bigger. Joining many orange blocks will make the blocks within your opponents cursor all turn a shade of grey making it difficulty for them to know what colour's what. Linking many yellow blocks will board up several rows of your opponents side, again making it impossible for them to link up any blocks. Of course it's possible to attack (or be attacked) with more than one of these special attacks at any one time which really makes things awkward. Whilst some of the effects of these special attacks are temporary, they are powerful enough to cause serious problems for your opponent and they make for a really engrossing multiplayer battle.

What's not so good about the game?

Whilst Koloomn is enjoyable, it could have done with more single-player content. The Single Play mode lacks the spice of the modes where you play against a rival and it's unlikely many will bother with this mode for long, as you can't practice the special attacks. The same can be said for the Training Solo and Puzzle Challenge mode. The Arcade Mode only differs from the Campaign mode in that the Arcade Mode allows you to pick which character you'll play with to face your AI rivals (incidentally the AI has three difficulty levels, easy, normal and hard) whilst the Campaign mode forces you to use the central character Kollon. On the topic of characters in Koloomn, they aren't really anything memorable. Each of the eight characters has their own preferred special attacks and some are more difficult than others but that's really as far as it goes. The Vs. CPU mode is also very similar to the two aforementioned modes except you'll play against your chosen AI opponent in a one-off match. Of course unless you have a friend who also owns a copy of the game, you won't be able to experience the Wireless Match mode (supports Ad Hoc mode only), which is a little unfortunate.

How does it look?

As you can see from the screenshots the game has a cheery Japanese comic book appearance, which suits the game perfectly. The characters are quite pleasant and easy on the eyes. The blocks themselves are quite large and easy to make out which makes for a comfortable gaming experience which is very important for long sessions. Load times are fairly snappy (for a PSP game anyway) and the presentation overall is quite pleasing, which is great to see.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

Koloomn won't give deaf gamers any real problems. The game doesn't use any speech and all information is shown in text. The tutorials are fine for deaf gamers as they are completely in text and you can read the instructional messages at your own pace as a press of the X button is required in order to move the dialogue forward. The game manual is quite brief but it explains the mechanics of the game quite well and answers any question you might have about the game. There is a warning alarm that sounds when either you or your rival are in danger. Whilst there aren't any visual clues as such for this, it's no problem as you can easily see whether or not you or your opponent is in trouble.

Final thoughts.

If you enjoy block-based puzzle games than there's a good chance you will enjoy what Koloomn has to offer. The game is easy enough to jump into and start playing, which means few will have problems enjoying the game right away, which is important. In order to make effective use of the special attacks you'll need to practice though and in this respect the game does offer a decent long term challenge. The main problem is that the game doesn't offer much variety in its game modes. Some are just too similar and others won't keep you interested for long. That said though, the game is enjoyable and if you can find someone to play against you'll have a great time.

Overall Game Rating: 7.4/10

Deaf Gamers Classification:

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Koloomn is an enjoyable block-based puzzle game that only really suffers from a lack of different modes. The modes on offer are just too similar. It could have had some more appealing single player modes too.