Over the years I have often said that it's either feast or famine when trying to find quality games to review. We are currently in one of those feasting periods, so roll-up your sleeves, it's time to eat. I sure hope you're hungry.
SpeedCluster, by Game-Pure, is an arcade Flash game that is remarkably easy to play: just drag cards from along the bottom row onto one of the four blue markers at the base of each column where random cards will fall. The cards you drag must be either one higher or one lower in value than the one that is falling. This forms a combo, and you earn points for additional cards that you add to a combo before it disappears out of play. You also earn time for creating combos; precious time with which to continue playing. The game ends when you run out of time.
Card values are taken from a standard deck of playing cards, 2 through 10, J, Q, K, and A. The "A" cards may be placed on top of either a 2 or a K. It's as simple as that.
What's not so simple to understand is the scoring structure the developer has created for the game, which seems to be based upon earning "C.P.". All of the points you earn during a game, along with any bonuses for maximum combos, number of cards, etc, are converted into C.P. which is automatically accumulated and saved for you each time you play. You level-up each time your C.P. reaches the next goal visible in the lower right corner of the title screen. What effect, if any, those levels have on gameplay is still unknown to me.
Analysis: SpeedCluster is a beautifully designed Flash game: simple and elegant, and with impeccable presentation. The visuals are very appealing, the soundtrack equally so, and the gameplay is highly addictive. This game succeeds on many levels.
What I'm finding hard to swallow is the choice of drag and drop for the core mechanic. Yes, it probably seems to be the obvious choice to make here, but when actually playing the game the rapid and repetitive motion becomes quite tiresome. And, on slower computers with performance issues, the drag-drop mechanic may even be too sluggish for the game to be playable. Part of the reason for this is the use of a custom cursor, which always seems to cause performance issues in the Flash games I've seen them used in, and I'm not convinced the larger cursor is really necessary for this game. Ideally, the game would benefit from a touch-screen interface, such as on the Nintendo DS.
Minor gripes aside, if your computer can handle it, this is definitely an addictive little game that will find you coming back to it again and again.
If you like Speed Cluster, be sure to check out the updated version, Speed Cluster 2!!