While I admit that the staccato *pop* of a punctured Bloon can be quite pleasant, I dare anyone to deny the ultimate satisfaction that comes from lighting stuff on fire! Fortunately, there is now a great way to soothe your burning desire while maintaining the physics-y puzzle-iciousness you've come to expect from Bloons and other offerings.
From game designer Michael Gribbin comes Pyro, a bevy of burning, a calamity of combustion, and a triumph of torch. In short, a game of flame! The goal is simple: light all of the torches. If the copious numbers of wooden blocks spread across forty levels should also happen to go up in smoke, so much the better! Each level requires a certain number of torches (usually all) to be lit, and a given number of fireballs with which to spread your fiery chaos, though occasionally you may collect bonus fireballs.
Click and drag the fireball at the top of the screen to set the angle and power, then release to put it into play. Lighting all the torches with a single fireball earns you an ace, and once you've collected enough aces, you gain access to one of four secret levels. Some levels cannot be beaten with a single fireball, but you can still earn the ace by using only two.
Analysis: In contrast with everyone's favorite dart-throwing-monkey game, Pyro features sparse levels reminiscent of a medieval castle: wood, stone, torches, and nothing else. The puzzle lies more in plotting out a complex, ricochet-riddled path than in using an arsenal of special tools, especially if you're collecting aces. Even the special powers of the rare bonus shots are used without creativity, introduced and then forgotten, providing hints of future complexity left unfulfilled. Now, I don't mind a bare-bones game (in fact, some of my favorite games may be found in under the simpleidea tag), but the limited use of the special fireballs leads me to question why they were even included.
Nevertheless, the minimalistic design makes Pyro accessible to both careful course-plotters and those who prefer to fire early and often, just to see what happens. Awarding aces for perfect shots pacifies those pesky perfectionists who might otherwise balk at having more fireballs than necessary, while also making the game accessible to people who need those extra shots. Also, you can go back to any level you want and try again to get that ace (and get one step closer to unlocking another secret level), which adds a certain amount of replay value.
My only real gripe with the game is that the fireball will occasionally bounce differently than the trajectory line suggests, but since restarting is fast and simple (just press the [s] key to stop a wasted fireball), it's not really a major issue. So don your flame-retardant underpants and get ready to play Pyro!
[Note: This game is tagged pg13 because of some light swearing in the congratulations message at the end of the game.]