Max Tafelmayer and Thomas Kress of Munich, Germany, have previously collaborated on the impressive Robo Pinball game, which was reviewed here back in 2004. Their latest effort is this Shockwave 3D action puzzler that incorporates physics and a variety of compelling contraptions as the basis for its gameplay.
In Impulse, the basic objective is to move the white ball to the goal in the shortest time possible by placing bombs and other objects on the play field that will influence its path.
Each level exists on a vertical plane (not a top-down view) with the force of gravity acting to pull the ball toward the bottom of the play field. Play consists of placing any object(s) allocated for the level and then starting the simulation.
The gameplay may at first be similar to other action puzzles that you have played, but what sets this one apart is its exceptional presentation and the precision of its underlying physics engine, which Max programmed himself to ensure deterministic results. For example, the game allows you to manipulate the time line by dragging the time slider back and forth to fine tune the placement of objects that affect the path of the ball. You really have to see this feature to truly appreciate the precision gameplay it allows.
In addition, various elements exist to provide challenge and depth to each level by introducing new concepts or puzzles that must be solved, or bonus points to earn. For example, in one level hitting numbered targets in the correct order before reaching the goal will subtract time from the total (lower scores are better in this game).
Analysis: As impressed as I was with the presentation of Robo Pinball before it, Impulse is even more polished and appealing. The user interface is very easy to navigate, it rivals many commercial offerings, and it includes a variety of features that serve to extend the replay value of the game. For example, the level selection menu system displays the best score achieved for each level at a glance. Once a level is selected, the last setup can then be loaded to see how the best score was achieved, or to make adjustments.
Although the game is basically played on a 2D plane, the graphics in the game are actually 3D as can be seen by using the zoom and pan features that allow you to examine the play field up close, even during a simulation or while scrubbing through the time line. This allows for a novel and unusually precise perspective to the game, and it propels it above other similar games in its class.
The demo version contains 24 levels to play while the full-version boasts over 100. The pace during the first several levels of the demo is slow and may turn some folks off as it is set up like a tutorial, but it serves to introduce the player to the concepts and controls available in the game, and to this end it does an excellent job.
Impulse has just been released under their recently founded casual game company, Taparo, and features a playable online demo as well as downloadable Shockwave projector files for both Mac and PC. I found the downloadable "enhanced" version to perform better on my Mac than the online version, but your mileage may vary.
Cheers to Karl for discovering this fabulous new release! =)