ST Format


E-Motion

Author: Maff Evans
Publisher: U. S. Gold
Machine: Atari ST

 
Published in ST Format #9

E-Motion

There's been a sudden surge of strange, addictive games this month. Pipe Mania and E-Motion, both from the Assembly Line, have cornered the market in compulsive, off-the-wall mindtwisters.

Whereas Pipe Mania involves actual objects, such as pipes and water, E-Motion is totally abstract. The game places you in control of a floating ball-shaped craft in a realm of other weird ball-shaped objects. The arena is a wraparound screen littered with unusual geometric obstacles and populated by coloured orbs.

The basic idea is to steer your ship around getting rid of the balls before they become overexcited and explode, removing your energy. Simple enough? Sure, but not when you neither collect nor shoot the balls it isn't.

The Game of Harmony

To destroy a ball it has to be forced to collide with another ball of the same colour. However, if two balls of a different colour collide they produce a ball of a third colour. The new ball is small and can be collected for extra energy, but if left to grow into a full-sized ball it has to be disposed of in the normal way.

Some levels have special energy balls which allow you to destroy other balls simply by touching them, or they may instead give you bonus points.

Balls are occasionally joined together by elasticated lines that both hold them together and keep them slightly apart. The repellent force can be overcome with a forceful smash in the right direction, but be careful because if one ball strays off the edge of the screen it reappears on the other side only for the line to catapult it across the screen in a most frightening manner.

The Game of Harmony

Bonus levels are played against the clock and require you to pick up specific coloured balls and avoid the rest. Some require the balls to be collected in a specific sequence and end prematurely if the wrong ball is touched.

There is a choice of control methods for people who prefer to play with one hand or two.

Effects

The Assembly Line have used a nice rather-splitting effect to produce a fading backdrop (which unfortunately doesn't show up on the screengrabs) and the sprites have a strange solid effect - rather like Fruit Pastilles! The items may not look like anything you've ever seen outside some bizarre hallucination, but they're none the worse for that.

The Game of Harmony

Similar care has been applied to the sound, with a bouncy sampled soundtrack and suitable ethereal spot effects.

The Assembly Line have tried very hard to make the game look both believable and surreal - an extremely difficult proposition, but they've succeeded.

Verdict

The idea behind E-Motion is excellent and original. Once you've got to grips with the controls - and the method of destroying balls - the game is incredible fun to play. Frustration sets in, however, when balls start flying around erratically. It's at this stage you're severely tempted to hit the quit key instead of overcoming the problem.

Sometimes there's no option but to let a ball explode because it's the only one left. To a certain extent this is because it takes a while to understand the strategy required, but it doesn't help reduce your high irritation level.

E-Motion has all the necessary ingredients for a superb puzzle game, and is well-programmed to boot. You'll be entranced by the hypnotic movement of orbs and the ethereal special effects. Frustration generated by erratic ball movement is the only thing that stops you getting emotive about it.

Maff Evans

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