Chain Reaction

Chain Reaction

Written by Charlie Sinhaseni on 12/22/2002 for PC  

Before you read this review ask yourself these questions:

1. Do I like puzzle games?

2. Do I remember The Incredible Machine?

3. Do I remember The Incredible Toon Machine?

4. Do I like games that actually make me think?

5. Is Jeff Tunnell my god?

6. Do I like to get a whole lot of game for my buck?


If you said yes to at least four of the six questions, then you’ll definitely want to check out Chain Reaction, a puzzle game built from the same vane as The Incredible Machine, but there’s a twist, it’s better, a whole lot better.

In case you’re not familiar with the now defunct Dynamix franchise, TIM required you to accomplish a goal with a set of odd contraptions and devices. You were given a bunch of objects, such as magnifying glasses and candles, and were ordered to set a contraption into motion. Yes it sounds very simplistic but that was the beauty of the game, it was simple yet engaging and in the end, it was highly addictive. Now take that formula, inject some new puzzles to it, update the visuals a bit and you have an entirely new game that is as every bit as addicting as TIM.

So you can score a headshot on a moving opponent with your sniper rifle, so you can pull off 15 hit combos in your fighting games. Well who cares, all of that doesn’t matter in the world of Chain Reaction. There’s no time limit or lightening quick input required, just a bunch of random pieces. It’s then up to you to figure out how everything meshes together and operates and for the most part, it comes together beautifully.

While the operation of some devices may not be immediately apparent to some gamers, it all makes sense in due time. For instance, if you needed to light a candle you could set up a flashlight and magnifying glass that is pointed at the wick. Everything in the world makes sense for the most part and thus can easily be related to in the real world. It’s all very hard to explain and while the game may be overwhelming at first, it quickly becomes simple and intuitive.
The puzzles are of course the highlight of the game. For the most part they’re pretty challenging and engaging although the programmers will throw you a bone every once in awhile. Where this game differs from TIM is in the goal structure. As opposed to setting a contraption into motion, you’ll have to move a rocket-riding monster (developer Monster Studios' mascot) into a designated landing pad which serves as the goal area. It’s very different from TIM yet it’s vaguely familiar. While some vets may initially be turned off by this change I personally loved it.

I found the variety to be quiet excellent as puzzle designer Chris Cole mixes things up quite nicely. What’s great about this game is that there is a true sense of accomplishment every time that a puzzle is defeated. I found myself hooting and hollering every time I beat one of these brain busters, especially the more difficult ones. If you’re not content with the current puzzles in the game you can always go and create your own with the included puzzle creator. I thought that I would just check out the feature for a few minutes but instead I was sucked in for hours. You'll be able to create your own puzzles with all of the game's 40+ parts. Best of all you can personalize them to your liking, writing your own descriptions that can be used to taunt your intellectually challenged friends. It's as simple as saving the file and e-mailing it to your buddies.

When stacked up against more modern games the visuals appear to be a bit dated but since this wasn’t supposed to be a graphical intensive game in the first place, the graphics are a welcome surprise. The entire game still takes place on a 2D plane but now resides in a 3D space. You’ll now be allowed to rotate the camera freely to obtain a brand new perspective on your puzzle. I know that it doesn’t seem to make too much of a difference but you’ll be dumbfounded at just how much difference a little change of scenery can make.

The audio won’t win any awards but the background music and sound effects do a great job of fitting in with the game. I especially love the music which is uppity and appealing.

At the time of this review, I had quite a few gripes with the game but as a testament to Garage Games' commitment, they were quickly worked out without incident. I had a few problems with the game's stability but some minor changes really stabilized this product immensely. At its current downloadble state, this game is as solid as a rock and runs without much incident.

Te availability of this title is quite limited as the only means of acquiring it is through the Garage Games Website. This means that it's not available at your local retail outlets through conventional means. The upside to this though is that the good folks at Garage Games are only charging you $14.95 for this excellent title. What's more was that this game was produced and designed without any outside funding, in this day and age that's just non-existent. If you ask the staff of GN, we'll tell you that this is one heck of a bargain.

This is one of the first games to come out of Garage Games’ doors and if this is any indication with the direction that the studio is taking, the gaming world is going to be in for one amazing treat. Play this by yourself or play it with a friend, it’s an excellent title that may not appeal to everyone but that shouldn’t stop you from playing it. If you're a fan of TIM then you owe it to yourself to get this game. This is definitely one of this year’s most pleasant surprises, don’t pass this one up.
An excellent puzzle game in the same vane as The Incredible Machine hits your PC.

Rating: 8.7 Very Good

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.

It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.

It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.

When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."

As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.

When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.

Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile

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