Most people turn to computer games for a bit of escapism. Their lives are stressful and they don’t want to have to think. However, there are a growing bunch of gamers who love to be tested. Subsequently, the puzzle genre is growing at an astronomical rate. Kombinera is a bizarre and tricky title that’ll test your mind and your patience.
Developed by Graphite Lab and published by Atari, this is a mind-boggling puzzle title that often frustrates. Thanks to its simple artistry and sparse stages, this isn’t overbearing. Yet, the many challenges you’ll face will push you to your breaking point. It is deceptively simple and easy to pick up, but it’ll make you scream repeatedly and scratch your head in confusion.
Kombinera tells a strange story.
I’ll be honest, the story is a little confusing. Thanks to its surreal approach, you won’t know what’s happening. Luckily, though, it matters not as it doesn’t impact the gameplay. However, let me give you a quick lowdown on what Kombinera is all about. The minimalist world is made up of coloured balls that each have unique powers. These entities are commanded by a giant ball known as King Kombine. Life is good in his kingdom until he becomes trapped in the Kave of Kaos. Dah Dah Dahhhhhh! To free the king, you must combine every coloured ball. This is no mean feat, but it is a treat for a logically minded player.
The game spans 8 chapters that become exponentially tougher. As you progress, more mechanics are chucked into the mix as new balls are introduced. Subsequently, you’ll end up juggling many plates as you navigate obstacles, bullets, spikes, pillars, and more. I loved the learning curve, but the brutal instadeath element makes this tough as hell. Sadly, there is no wiggle room and this can be frustrating. After all, there is nothing worse than minor errors undoing all your hard work.
4 colours and multiple obstacles.
It’s hard to believe that a puzzle game about coloured balls will be challenging, but it is. Each unique colour has an ability that must be used to solve the problem. For example, the spikes are red and only the matching ball can touch them. If another colour comes near, then they will die. This doesn’t sound complicated, but when you include gaps to leap, and multiple balls to combine, it becomes a headache. Moreover, matters are made worse when a handful of colours appear on each stage. This forces you to plan while focusing on many elements. Thankfully, though, once two colours merge, the ball can overcome each of their obstacles.
It was horrendous to survive every red spike, only to be killed by the green bullets. What’s more, there is a useless white ball that can’t do much at all. This weak being will always be your Achilles heel! However, let’s not take our anger out on it. The yellow balls are great for destroying matching pillars, and the green one is impervious to bullets like Superman, but they are all weak as hell and can die instantly. Therefore, the only way to complete each stage and save the king is to work together.
This multi-faceted approach is where the gameplay becomes difficult. You can be one step away from completion and a small error can ruin everything. I’ll admit, it made me swear regularly as I made mistake after mistake. Yet, the challenge and simplicity of the fundamentals make it impossible to put down. Subsequently, it is a moreish puzzle title that will test veterans of the genre.
Kombinera is simplicity personified.
I, like many people, want games to wow me. Subsequently, we all want to be blown away by the real-life graphics and massive worlds. However, this isn’t always necessary, and a simple approach can be just as effective. Kombinera proves this with its fixed-screen perspective and vivid colour palette. Alongside this, the contrasting tones make every element pop. Consequently, the action is easy to follow. Furthermore, there are no risks of obstacles blending with the scenery and this was great. Had the developers taken a different approach, it would have been unnecessarily tough to complete each stage.
The surreal nature of the plot is enhanced by the audio. The airy sci-fi tunes create an eerie and strange atmosphere. What’s more, there is a distinct lack of sound effects and this adds to the minimalist style. I enjoyed the stripped back sounds as they emphasised the simplicity of this title. In short, it personifies everything great about a basic and uncomplicated game.
Jump and move, jump and move.
The straightforward concept is continued with the rudimentary controls. There is nothing fancy about playing Kombinera. Instead, you focus on the left analogue stick and the A button. Thankfully, this is as complicated as it gets, as you can concentrate on each puzzle. Moreover, the buttons are responsive and the gameplay is smooth. Therefore, it is much easier to navigate tight spaces. This was a small mercy in a game that always wanted to kill you.
Puzzle games can suffer from a lack of replay value. Luckily, however, this has both longevity and reasons to return. The difficulty of the gameplay ensures you’ll invest hours. Alongside this, each stage is timed and there are crowns to collect. Obtaining every crown and achieving the optimum time is easier said than done. Subsequently, I wish any completionists luck as they try to finish it.
Kombinera is an excellent puzzle title.
Though testing your brain isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, I love it. I find the genre to be rewarding, addictive, and oddly enjoyable. Yes, it can be frustrating, but the positives far outweigh the negatives. Kombinera does a great job of simplifying its concept while letting the puzzles do the talking. Therefore, I recommend you buy it here! Can you beat every time, collect every crown, and combine the balls? You must, otherwise, King Kombime won’t escape the Kave of Kaos.