Pixelus for Palm OS & Pocket PC

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, August 2005
Published by: Astraware and Nuclide Games
Available at : Astraware
Requires: Pocket PC 2002 or later, Palm OS 5.o or later, color screen, supports standard resolution as well as 320x480 (portrait) and 480x320 (landscape) resolutions on compatible Palm OS devices
MSRP: US$19.95

Fiendishly devious. Deviously fiendish. Or something. I am focused. I am concentrating. I will get this. I will beat this level of Pixelus. I have successfully completed dozens of challenges already but things are slowing down. I am apparently stuck on a particularly difficult mosaic. What to do, what to do? A violent storm has shipwrecked our hero Claudius on the mythical island of Pixelus. To help Claudius escape from the island, I must rebuild the temples of the mythical deities by 'simply' inserting the missing tiles in each mosaic design. All I have to do is position and slide tiles into place to complete the broken mosaics. I can even earn a gold medal by solving puzzles in the fewest number of moves. I have to watch out for the sticky tiles.

The temple rebuilding process takes the form of a long series of mosaic puzzles, each with missing tiles. You are given a limited number of tiles to fill in the blanks to complete the magical mosaics. Pixelus is also a brain teaser which requires not only a conceptual grasp of the way in which tiles can be positioned on each mosaic, but also a clear understanding of the number of ways in which tile relationships to each other can change in the different and progressively more difficult mosaics. The game design is clever, challenging, and because its basic visual orientation changes slightly with each new board, you're always looking at something a bit different and interesting.

The backstory in these sorts of games is really not the primary motivation for the gameplay. In fact, the backstory is the catalyst for the art design of the game and its corresponding environment. The wisdom in this sort of game design lies in not letting the environment overpower the gameplay. Hanging the gameplay inside an interesting environment provides players with an absorbing and atmospheric theme which helps players focus on the challenge of the game's mosaic puzzles.

Cons: Long load times on a Sony Clie TH55 (albeit much faster on a Treo 650 and blazingly fast on a borrowed Dell Axim X50). The changing tile relationships are certainly challenging, but directionality changes without warning (you have to play the game to understand), which can make for occasional bits of needless frustration. If you get frustrated with a particular mosaic you can reset it, but beware that the tile position directional relationships will reset to something other than what you just played. Devious. Read the game instructions. Simply diving into Pixelus might present some confusion, although gameplay does become apparent after some practice, the problem being that the small white gaps indicating the location of missing mosaic tiles don't initially invite any obvious action.

Pros: Faster PDAs love these graphically heavier games. But once the game is loaded, any color Pocket PC with PPC 2002 or later and any color Palm PDA with Palm OS 5 or later will run the game satisfyingly well. Well executed graphics, especially the introduction and mosaic selection screens between levels. The art design and illustrations are unique. Play at your own pace, moving into progressively more difficult mosaics, steadily moving toward the goal of appeasing the gods and escaping the island. This one is for lunch breaks, coffee breaks, waiting for the bus, train or subway, sitting in waiting rooms and lobbies. Lots of fun. Recommended.

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