Review: Meteos Wars

Though there quite a few puzzlers out there that you could choose over Meteos Wars, it’s recommended that you give the latest iteration of Q Entertainment’s darling a chance. Making the leap from its ubiquitous Nintendo DS debut to the Xbox Live Arcade remixed and relaunched as Meteos Wars, it’s an impressive block-stacking title that should please even the most discerning of puzzle fans – that is, if you are wanting to play alone.

If you’re not familiar with the game mechanics of the original diminutive Meteos, the premise is the same in Meteos Wars, and it’s simple: blocks fall from the sky ala Tetris, and then in turn must be matched in vertical or horizontal lines of three. Once a match is made, the triplet will be boosted back into space where it belongs. However, it’s not always that simple; as gravity is your enemy. If your group of blocks is too heavy to make its way back into the heavens, it will steadily descend back into your original pile of blocks. That’s when you will need to match more in order to keep it aloft. However, the correct blocks will not always be available to match. You can accelerate the speed of the falling squares, but beware – if one line reaches the top of the game board, an alarm will sound. If you cannot reduce the line’s height in a timely fashion, it’s game over! Paired with these harrowing rules, you’re also in a close match with an AI (or human, if you’re in multiplayer) opponent who is trying to clear their board in the same manner.

Blocks that you send into space will rain down like, you guessed it, meteors on your rival player’s board, so it’s best to send as many as possible in order to put them out of commission. While doing so, a yellow meter set in the corner of the screen will gradually build during simple gameplay. Activating it will saddle your opponent with blocks so that they cannot match, or simply scramble the blocks they already have, or send more blocks for them to attempt to sort out. Its frenetic pace makes Meteos Wars one of the most challenging puzzlers out there. However, its Xbox Live Arcade release is obviously meant to be played using the 360 controller. Bear in mind that with the original game, you had the DS stylus to drag and make manipulating blocks much easier and streamlined. Moving and switching out blocks using the 360 controller is much clunkier and difficult to get used to, especially after you have been used to using a stylus to get by most of the time. However, this is a very minor issue, as the game is most definitely playable despite which kind of controller you’re most used to playing with. It may not be some gamers’ cup of tea, though, and that’s one issue that could divide potential buyers.

Meteos Wars offers multiple modes of play: Mission Mode, containing three difficulty levels, Challenge mode, where you play as long as possible with odds stacking higher against you as time marches on, and time attack modes. All very expected and mandatory of a puzzler, but nothing too remarkable to input about any of the modes. We’ve all seen time attack and “endless/challenge” modes before.

Where Meteos Wars does tend to fall apart is its dismal Live multiplayer mode. Though the game has only been out for a very short period of time, there is an enormous scarcity of online matches to be found. It utilizes TrueSkill, but that’s of no importance if you cannot even find a proper match to play in. After trying to no avail for three days to find a match, I finally did get one opponent. However, the lag was almost unbearable. The game ended halfway through because my opponent quit – the lag was that awful. Having said this, if you’re wanting Meteos Wars for some rousing online fun, you may want to reconsider and get the original DS version instead – at least its wi-fi connection won’t lag out as hard as the 360 version does. I found this extremely disappointing, as this is a game just begging to be played online. But realistically, the majority of Xbox gamers are not going to be spending their time piddling around with an Arcade title.

The graphics are appropriately cosmic, and quite colorful. I enjoyed the designs of the alien lifeforms that you take on as avatars. The cool neons and pastels of the environments and different stages were quite pleasing to the eye, and are comparable to Lumines, though I might enjoy the aesthetics of Meteos Wars a bit more. As for the sound and music, this is one groovin’ game. Pulsing and thumping techno accompany frantic gameplay and intergalactic sound effects seal the deal. I confess to idling on the game’s menu for a good half hour bobbing my head to the infectious beat.

Though it isn’t without its issues, Meteos Wars is a respectable title that’s well worth the purchase price, especially for fans of the original game. However, if you’re wanting to play online for some good old random matches, that is almost out of the question unless you have some friends who are planning on purchasing the game. Hardly anyone is online to play with. It figures that there are achievements for ranked matches, too. Isn’t that always how it goes? This is a challenging, intelligent puzzler with clean, spacey graphics and driving electronica. Anyone can pick it up and enjoy it, but it will take some time to master. Just be prepared to spend some quality time with it alone. If that doesn’t bother you, it’s well worth ten bucks, especially if you’re a fan of Tetris, Lumines, or Puzzle Fighter. Give it a shot.

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