When Alexey Pajitnov created the now classic game, Tetris, back in the mid-1980’s, who knew that it would rise to such prominence. Testris has been the subject of so many cpies, variations, ports, and spinoffs, that it has virtually become its own subgenre. I still have fond memories of playing Tetris with my friends in high school (and beyond). So, of course, I was thrilled when I learned that Astraware would be bringing two of Alexey Pajitnov’s follow up games to the palm of my hand. The first game, which we will be looking at today, is Mozaki, which is actually much easier to play than to spell.
In Mozaki, you are faced with a grid patterned playing surface, surrounded by four walls. Each wall is divided into two panels, for a total of eight colored panels. At the beginning of the game, the two panels on the same wall will be the same color and act as one panel. As you advance to higher levels, the walls will gradually split into two panels, until all eight operate independently.
On the right hand side, you will have three colored pieces (which strongly resemble the pieces in Tetris). A fourth piece will always be a special piece (eraser, wild card, or paint bucket). All you have to do is create a single colored chain from each of the colored sides to the middle square. When you have created such a chain, the tiles will be removed from the screen. The more tiles you connect, obviously, the higher the score. Once you create a chain from each colored side or panel to the middle then you will advance to the next level.
At the beginning of the game, the pieces will be uniform in color, making placement seem fairly obvious. As you progress, however, the pieces will begin to be multicolored, bringing a larger piece of strategy to the game.
When you are building chains, you will notice that some pieces can fuse together, creating a large cube. A cube is worth many more points than each block standing alone. For example, a 2×2 (4 block) cube, however, is worth considerably more than the standalone value of the individual blocks. The larger the cube, the more points you will earn (the value of each cube is inscribed on its face). Like Tetris, therefore, it pays to plan your moves in order to fit the pieces together.
Along the way, you may also notice that some blocks include special properties, such as:
- star blocks, which double your points
- time bomb blocks which will clear the board
- wild cards which can fuse to any chain
- erasers, which will wipe out any single block
- paint bucket, which will fill in up to eight blocks with wild card blocks
- hourglass (timed mode only) will stop the clock for a short time
These special blocks are fantastic and really help advance the strategic elements of the game. For example, you just found the piece you need to complete a chain, but it has a time bomb in it. Do you want to play the piece and clear the rest of the board, or wait until a more opportune time? The choice is yours.
Did you get all of that? No? Well, don’t worry if you missed it, this is all explained in the in-game tutorial. To access it, just click tutorial or read the splash screens at the beginning of each level.
You will also want to keep an eye on the center square. From time to time, it will turn into a bubbling cauldron.
When it does, you can tap it to send shockwaves through the board. These shockwaves will destroy all of the blocks on the board (but not the larger fused squares). This is a great way to clear unneeded debris and misplaced pieces out of your way.
Once you have completed a chain to each colored panel, you will advance to the next level. Unlike many games, however, this does not mean resetting the playing surface and starting over again. In fact, all of the blocks you have played will remain exactly where they are while the outer panels change colors. Any blocks touching a panel will change colors with that panel. Blocks which are not touching their “home” panel will remain their original color. This means that each time you play a piece, you not only have to consider how it will fit on this level, but also how it will transfer to the next level.
Everything I have talked to up until now has really focused on Marathon Mode. In Marathon Mode, you just keep placing pieces on the board until you completely run out of moves. One thing I did not like was that the game will not actually tell you when you run out of legal moves. Instead, you must manually resign when you cannot find any legal moves. I know too many people who would never resign in this situation, choosing instead study the board forever rather than give up.
There is, however, another mode based upon time trials. Here, the clock is ticking. That green bar on the left is a timer and it is quickly running out. Your mission (should you choose to accept it) is to complete a predetermined number of links before time runs out. Gameplay is otherwise the same as Marathon Mode. Be careful, though, because as you reach higher levels, the timer will move faster, so you had better hurry!
The graphics and sounds in this game are simple, yet effective. As you might imagine, they harken back to the original Tetris, with shapes made up from 3-6 colored blocks. The only complaint I had was that the board cannot be made to utilize the full screen. Instead, the board is centered on the screen, with the new pieces on the right and inconsequential background images around the rest of the board. While this arrangement may have worked for the larger desktop screen, it is less than effective on a Windows Mobile device. This makes the playing the game without a stylus virtually impossible, because the spaces are so small. I wish Astraware had been able to redesign the look of the game in order to more effectively utilize the space available on the screen.
Nonetheless, the sizing of the gameboard did not significantly detract from my enjoyment of the game. In fact, once I learned that it was designed by the creator of Tetris, I knew I was in for a lot of sleepless train rides. And I was not disappointed. I love these kinds of puzzle games because you can play them anywhere for any duration of time. When you need to stop, just exit, and the action will continue right where you left off the next time. To put it simply, this is a fun, addictive game which will have you cheering silently to yourself one second and muttering curses under your breath the next. To paraphrase the potato chip commercial, I bet you can;t plat for just one (minute). Go ahead, try to put this one down…I dare you.
What I Liked:
- fun and addictive gameplay
- easy to learn
- simple but attractive graphics
- automatic save feature
What Needs Improvement:
- The playing area should be redesigned and expanded in order to make the game more finger friendly and easier to play on a small screen.
Developer: Astraware (Developed for Carbonated Games)
Tested on: Windows Mobile 6
Also Available: Windows Mobile 2003 and higher, Windows Mobile Smartphone
Where to Buy: Mozaki