A game in the puzzle genre more often than not uses one gimmick as the basis of the puzzle. Cosmetics, alterations and variants are added to generate other titles. Taito’s Puzzle Bobble is one such title that is oft-imitated. Alexey Pajitnov continues to be known these days as the creator of Tetris, despite having worked on other puzzle titles. Similarly, whoever did the original concept for Bejeweled should actively seek to patent it like Amazon.com has done to the one-click checkout. But then you wouldn’t get Clickgamer’s Cropped Out – a game that puts an alien spin on the classic Bejeweled.
The mechanics are fairly easy to grasp even if you haven’t touched the Astraware classic, which is slowly permeating itself to casual gamers (via Yahoo, EA.com, Zone.com et al) and even mobile cell phones. So for all practical intents and purposes, you might even have come across this title before or a variant of it. The fundamental core of the game is still inexplicably addictive. Instead of jewels, we have crop circles here of varying designs. Making a row of three or more consecutive symbols that are the same, either horizontally or vertically, will net you a score. Extra points are awarded for more symbols of course but the most points will be awarded for cascading effects where one row of crop circles disappearing will set off a chain reaction for others. This requires some foresight, although you won’t need it. Most people will just happen on them.
Cropped Out is played in two primary forms. The simpler mode is untimed and the only thing signaling game over is when you run out of moves completely. The timed mode is similar to time trials in racing titles. Getting points will get you more time and defer the end of the game.
When the end comes, you have the option of posting your scores online. Cropped Out will generate a PDA specific code that you can enter on their website. While it’s not as interesting as playing head to head (a la saved ghosts and what not) it’s still something when it comes to connectivity.
Periodically, Cropped Out offers bonuses if you’re able to take out aliens above or below crops. In terms of visuals, Cropped Out uses quick animation as well as colorful icons to represent everything. It is designed from ground up for the Pocket PC and includes alternating color skins (not as dramatic as you might think), easy to access buttons to mute and pause as well as a simple battery meter to gauge how long you’ve spent on this game.
Don’t be mistaken though – Cropped Out won’t be using a lot of power. It is a fairly simple game and perhaps that’s where the charm is. I honestly didn’t expect much when I loaded it but lo and behold, I spent a good half hour with it until a phone call drove me away from the handheld. Clickgamer has priced Cropped Out at the same rate as Astraware’s classic ($14.95) so if there is a deciding factor, it’ll be on which style you prefer.
Insofar as puzzle titles go, Cropped Out can certainly be recommended without hesitation.
[05/10] Program Size
[13/15] Learning Curve