Entropy (80 MSP) does not back down from its initial visual promise; it is the most beautiful XBLIG in three dimensions that I’ve laid eyes on. So much so that I find myself blushing when in its presence, and I don’t care who knows it. From the foliage to bloom effects (yes, at the cost of an occasionally sputtering frame-rate) this game is hawt.
Sadly, pretty moving pictures and the compliments they inspire do not a well-rounded review make, so take my previous fawning over its technical marvels for what it is and let me move on to the bullet points. You, you little amnesiac you, wake up to find you’re facing a series of test chambers that must be solved. I’m sure that probably sounds familiar. Guided by the balls of colored energy that roused you, that seem to be neither friend nor foe, you’ll work to add other balls, these being comprised of elements (stone, fire, water, acid), to various scales within the levels that measure weight, temperature, or the pH content, thus opening the exit.
The game doesn’t explain much, and what little it does is done through images and paintings on walls, or a subtle sign. Thankfully, it doesn’t take long to see that certain elements will not mesh (fire and water, for instance), and this is actually core to the game’s puzzles. Water will cool fire, turning it to a touchable (and moveable) stone. The other elements have similar relationships. Trial and error all you like. Nothing is permanent in Entropy. In a very smart design move, if you make a mistake or die (you’ll do both) all you have to do is rewind time and do it differently.
And it helps to explore. I did notice that certain levels have a few different solutions. The first path opens up your standard exit (dropping through a hole) from the stage, while another, more arcane route, can open passages that lead to uncovering hidden paintings (a total of 12). What effect finding these has (if any), I don’t know. I wasn’t clever enough to spot more than one. I also wasn’t dedicated enough to finish the game, stopping at stage 10 (of 26) after having put around four hours into it.
So pretty. And so dull.
A good chunk of that time was spent fighting with the game’s physics, either in ‘pushing’ elements to where I needed them to be, careful not to burn or corrode myself, or in using the ‘gravity bubbles’ to group and / or sort others. It’s one thing to craft interesting puzzles around a mechanic, it’s quite another to ‘see’ a puzzle solution, and then take twenty minutes or more trying to tiredly will that solution into being.
I didn’t find manipulating the pieces myself to be all that bad, as I had physical control (mostly) over where they ended up. With the bubbles, though, you’re either ‘inching’ elements along at a snail’s pace, or ‘resetting’ them (rewinding time) just to continue inching. It adds a degree of complexity to the solving that is not needed, and, more unfortunately, not fun. I didn’t get far enough into the game to (according to the trailer) mess with the gravity in some stages, so I can’t say for certain whether the early frustrations increase or start to level off.
I dislike posting a review on something if I haven’t seen it through (or in the least, halfway-through). It’s sloppy journalism for one, and two, it can’t give anyone the whole picture when so much is left unseen. At the risk of losing credibility, I’m going to assume that large parts of Entropy‘s second half will play out much like its first part did; gorgeous scenes with the occasional flash of brilliance, mixed in sparingly with much bigger portions of clunky, molasses-slow puzzle-solving. It’s worth the look and MSP, but you might not stick with it.