An entrant into the 2009 Independent Games Festival, 2DEngine's Chains is a game of color connecting that puts a new spin on the same-game genre. Twenty unique levels challenge the player to clear circles while balancing a coat hanger, cleaning a clogged pipe, painting a pyramid, and dodging giant pinball flippers. But of course, we all do that every weekend, don't we?
The levels of Chains have different tasks, but the basic premise remains the same: make chains of three or more circles of the same color to clear them. To make a chain, click any circle and move your mouse to any nearby circle of the same color. If it's close enough, a line will connect them. You can tell how close a circle has to be to another to connect by clicking on a circle and check the triangles spinning around the circle. Connect three or more circles, and click again to clear them from the board.
In most levels, your goal is to clear a certain number of circles. Other levels require you to maintain a certain state of homeostasis within the playing area, such as clearing circles quickly enough so that they don't pile up and upset a counterweight, spilling the circles out a trap door. The variety of levels bring a good mix to the game, with levels that require speed, strategy, a hint of luck, or a mix of all three.
Analysis: While simultaneously an impairment to how one can clear circles, forcing the connections to be made via a chain rather than a cluster brings a very original twist to the same-game genre. You now have to choose which circles allow you to make the most of a clearing, which might or might not involve clearing as many circles as you can. Being able to clear some of the circles adds some deeper strategy to a usually straight-forward game.
No two levels in this game are the same. While similar mechanisms might be used (like the trap doors and "clear X in a single chain" challenges), each level is designed so that you have to constantly shift your strategy back and forth. Should you clear lots of small chains quickly or wait to build up a large one? Should I clear part of my large chain to make room for chains of another color to clear out? With 20 unique levels to choose from, and great attention to the detail of physics, it's clear a lot of thought went into each challenge.
In terms of difficulty, there are three difficulty settings to choose from for all 20 levels. Choosing a harder setting may mean you have more colors of circles to contend with, or circles enter the field at a faster pace, or some other maddening twist. While some levels on easy feel almost guilt-inducingly simple, the hard setting more than compensates for it.
Strangely, a complaint I have to file about this game involves a single bit of music. While almost all of the music seems to follow the relaxing graphics and subdued motif of the game, there is one out-of-place piece of music that shows up in a couple of later levels that is extremely suggestive in nature, hence the PG-13 rating on this game.
On the whole, the mellow mood of Chains sets up a challenge that, while occasionally frustrating, is quite a joy to play with. The variety of levels keeps you on your toes while you try to break your own personal records while clearing levels. Chains is a treat for all ages (if you mute the music for a couple of levels) that is sure to please.