Giant Bomb Review14 Comments
by Brad Shoemaker on
Trajectile's uniquely angular puzzle-solving is fun, but a little too rigid for its own good.
Trajectile is not afraid to show its influences. This new $5 DSiWare puzzle game from Q-Games (the PixelJunk people) immediately comes off as a lo-fi throwback to games like Breakout and Missile Command, but with a turn-based twist. The object is simple: point one or more rockets from the bottom of the screen at a group of blocks at the top, bouncing the rockets off of walls and other blocks to take out a number of glowing goal blocks scattered around each stage. There are a few different kinds of rockets--one that explodes in a large radius on impact, and another that will drill straight through several blocks--and a handful of power-ups you can use to your advantage. The goal is simple: take out the target blocks in the fewest number of turns possible to get the highest score.
The conditions in each level are entirely set by the developers: the number of turns you get (three, five, or seven), the layout of the blocks, not to mention the type, order, and spacing of the rockets. So the game alternates between feeling satisfying and stilted. In some levels, you'll be setting up big chain reactions that clear half of the goal blocks in one turn, and feeling pretty proud of yourself. But just as often, you start to feel like there's one specific, right way to solve a given puzzle, and if you can't piece it together, you'll be lucky to finish the level at all in the allotted number of turns. (And if you do finish it, it will probably be via a sloppy, inefficient solution.) You can use the power-ups you pick up on any turn, which gives you a little flexibility... but not enough. The fixed positions of the ships constrains the level of creativity you can use to solve each puzzle more than I would have liked.
The game also demands pixel-precise aiming via its stylus-only control, but the aiming isn't as responsive or sensitive as it needs to be to fine-tune some of your shots without some degree of trial and error. You'll find yourself moving the stylus a millimeter at a time, trying to change the trajectory of a shot just enough to bank it around a corner, and then sliding too far and going past the desired angle entirely. And forget about playing the game in a moving vehicle, which is exactly the sort of place I would expect to enjoy the bite-size gameplay DSiWare specializes in. Anything less than complete stability makes it nearly impossible to aim your shots and play the game effectively.
At least there's a ton of content crammed into the game, with scores of levels spread across five difficulty tiers. You can play the levels in each tier out of order if you want, so you won't get stuck trying to beat a particular level without having dozens of other levels to try out instead. The game rolls out new levels and new block and power-up types to you smoothly as you progress, so if you really get into the angular puzzle-solving on offer here, you'll be able to keep doing it for a good long while.
Trajectile assembles aspects of some classic old games into a unique and interesting puzzle experience, but it's limited enough in some ways that you may bump into some frustration with its trial-and-error approach from time to time. Then again, for $5, what have you got to lose?