When all the planets in a galaxy need destroying, you will have to apply your head to solve the problem. In the case of Nitrome's new action/puzzle game Chisel, the large drill stuck to your noggin makes that statement pretty literal. Get ready to tear through terra-firma like you have never done before - unless you are a moleman.
Control Chiseller with the [arrow] keys, and drill downwards with the [spacebar]. While some enemies can be destroyed by ramming into them, others are dangerous, and you'll want to learn to tell the difference quickly or those three lives will run out pretty fast. Each planet has a target size to reach, so cut it down as quickly as you can for a high score!
For reasons not entirely motivated, Chiseller has to carve thirty different planets down to their target size. But perhaps it has to do with the strange shapes these heavenly bodies come in. One wants, after all, a uniform and well-adjusted galaxy. Or maybe the strange creatures that inhabit the surface and below require some culling. After all, they are not there for Chiseller's health - in fact, they are quite detrimental to it - so he has to run to a good spot and plunge head first into the ground, tearing straight through the planet and making it a little bit smaller. But, obviously, the smaller the planet gets the harder it becomes to avoid its lethal fauna (or flora - assuming a saw blade swinging from a chain counts as a plant).
Analysis: Chisel is in its way an inverse of the 'fill the space' genre created by Qix and later copied by the likes of Gals Panic, the Xonix series and the Art Class mini game in Rockstar's console title Bully. In the Qix lineage you have to fill spaces in a rectangular area by drawing lines to create boxes and avoid enemies roaming in the space. Chisel turns the idea around by expecting you to remove space. While in Qix games you killed enemies by enclosing them, in Chisel you ram them with your drill. When this isn't happening, avoidance is the only recipe for survival. And just like Qix, as your play area gets smaller, staying out of the way of bad guys gets harder.
But unlike the former genre, Chisel does not stick to uniform levels. It combines different-shaped planets with interesting enemy types to create a variety of challenges. Some creatures can't be killed by your drill. Others knock against each other and change direction. A few live underground and change their digging direction based on how you chop away rock. One particularly annoying creature actually chases after you, leaving you very little time to get the right angle for your drill.
There is no time limit in Chisel, because the game is all about timing and angle. Sometimes it is just a matter of heading into the right direction, but often you have to choose the perfect launch moment in order to avoid a monster (or perhaps hit and kill it, depending on the type). These two elements are constantly being juggled in the various level designs and the final stage completely focuses both to a fine art. Chiseller only has three lives, so he can be hurt twice before a level is failed: sometimes you have to sacrifice a bit of health to make a level work in your favour, but reckless digging will get you nowhere fast.
There is a scoring mechanism in the form of gems that appear randomly and extra points for killing monsters. So even if you easily master the game, there is an incentive to get these gems, as only a limited number appear on each level. But even if score is the furthest thing from your mind, Chisel is brilliant fun. Typical of Nitrome's games it uses cute retro-pixel graphics displaying creatures that the art department definitely had a ball coming up with. It would be nice for the music to change every few levels, but other than that the only thing left wanting is the sequel hinted at in the end credits.