Reviews

Glow Worm

Glow Worm is pretty, to be sure, but what good is a puzzle game that never actually puzzles?


Publisher: Tri Synergy
Genres: Puzzle
Price: $19.99
Multimedia: Glow Worm
Platforms: PC
Number of players: 1
ESRB rating: Everyone
Developer: Flashbang Studios
US release date: 2006-09-11
Developer website

I don't like to lose. Really.

There's nothing worse than working and working at a game and ultimately coming up short, knowing you're just going to have to perform whatever menial task you were trying to complete all over again from the beginning. The first time you lose, it's mildly irritating, but understandable. The 10th time, it hurts. The 30th? Controllers get smashed, consoles get berated and thrown, and mayhem ensues. It's not a pretty sight.

Even as this may be the case, however, it has taken but one game to show me just how unappealing the other side of the spectrum is. One game demonstrated that winning every single time is just as unfulfilling and frustrating as losing every single time. As it turns out, it's balance that makes a game feel challenging. So what was this one game? Tri Synergy's entry into the PC puzzle arena, a little game called Glow Worm.

Glow Worm is a tile-based puzzle game in which a number of (as you might expect) glow worms and butterflies (they look like fireflies to me, not least thanks to their little glowing butts) populate each game board, along with various obstacles and scenery. Your job is to place a number of additional glow worms on the board, creating blocks of four bugs of like colors. If a block is created, each glow worm turns into a butterfly the color of the spots on the glow worm (i.e. a green worm with red spots will turn into a red butterfly), and each butterfly disappears. Naturally, this mechanic can lead to all sorts of strategically placed combos and whatnot, though the size of the combo is slightly limited by the number of tiles on the board. Even so, a master Glow Worm-er might quickly be able to put together combos of eight or more groups of four, an event that without fail gives the rather large encouragement-spouting glow worm to the left of the game board no end of delight: "Well done," he'll say, and warm fuzzies will ensue.

Even apart from the delightfully inane spoutings of said sentient glow worm, there is plenty to like about the game. The visuals are clean and far more colorful than the game's constant nighttime ambience would indicate. Each successful clear brings about bright (but not oppressive) flashes of light, and the colors are well-defined enough that you'll never get confused as to the difference between a green and a blue. The game's mechanics are very easy to pick up, and despite its flaws, there is a level of addiction to be found in the early going. The tutorial levels are clear and concise, the text is easily readable, and the environments lush and wonderfully rendered. To be sure, it's a pretty game to look at, and the soothing music only adds to the peaceful mood.

There are even three modes of play, introducing some semblance of variety to the game, even if the main play mechanics never change: "Classic" mode is a "tile breaking" game, in that you need to break the stone tiles beneath the bugs by completing blocks on top of the tiles. "Adventure" mode adds some Tetris-style gravity to the mix, and "Puzzle" mode takes away the ability to switch the colors of your glow worm and its spots, a very useful little trick in the other two modes. To be sure, "Puzzle" mode is the most difficult of the three, and therefore the one most worth playing.

Unfortunately, there lies the rub of Glow Worm: the qualifier "most difficult" does the actual level of challenge involved in Glow Worm a disservice, as there is actually nothing difficult about it at all. The "Classic" mode seems like a natural choice for a beginner such as myself, and so I started with that, breaking the little tiles to my heart's content. Four dozen mind-numbingly easy levels later, I had finished the "Classic" mode, having not once trapped myself into a corner. I understand making the first few levels this easy. Maybe I can even understand making the first half or so of the game this easy. Still, when you're playing level 47 of 48 and thinking to yourself, "Gee, this is taking me a bit longer than those other 46 levels," and taking that to represent a challenge, there is something seriously wrong. While the restrictions placed on the other modes up the challenge a bit, it's never to the point where the player is racking his brain, trying to come up with the one combination that will lead to ultimate success.

As such, while it holds that I don't like to lose, that doesn't mean I don't want to lose. I imagine that most gamers are the same way -- that when they see a game that is marketed as a puzzle game, they want to be puzzled. Most gamers would as soon chew off their own hand than not be at least a little bit challenged by whatever game it is they might be playing. To these gamers, Glow Worm might provide a temporary diversion, but the boredom that will inevitably result from extended play will more than offset the title's budget price. As anything more than Junior's First Puzzle Game, Glow Worm is nice to look at, but painfully dull.

4

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image