Thursday 8 September 2016

Mindbuster (Microvision review)

Developer: Milton Bradley
Publisher: Milton Bradley
Released: 1979

Mindbuster is a U.S. exclusive puzzle game that consists of two different gameplay modes.

First up is Rings where the objective is to surround the singular black dots with ring squares, while leaving nothing else on the playfield. To do this, you use the keypad to select numbers from 1-9 which affect a sequence of blocks that end up being lit or unlit. At the bottom is an indicator of the minimum number of moves required to successfully beat the puzzle and the system buzzes to let you know the outcome. The keypad controls work nicely and I like how there's no time limit so you can plan your moves at your own pace. There's also a nice variety of puzzles so it's possible to get some decent playtime out of this mode. However, personally I found the puzzles to be unbelievably difficult and even beating one puzzle was a headache inducing chore. This quickly led to frustration due to repeated failure and lack of progress. It does have one amazing feature though in that you can create your own puzzles; this encourages multiplayer sessions and for a 1979 handheld game it's way ahead of its time! Next up is Lights Out where you now need to completely clear the screen by illuminating and dimming blocks. Again, numbers 1-9 on the keypad determine which series of blocks will be affected and the puzzle must be solved within a certain number of moves. The rules are similar to the previous game but the concept is simpler and the puzzles nowhere near as punishing, making for some fun brain teasers. There's tons of puzzles to keep you occupied (which vary in difficulty to suit both newcomers and experts) and once again you have the option to create your own puzzles which is great. While it's exciting when you do solve a puzzle the system omits an extremely annoying buzzing sound that doesn't stop until you start a new game! Both modes don't tally up points so each puzzle is really its own isolated instance with nothing to compete against; even a simple counter to display how many puzzles you've completed in a row would have really helped.
Mindbuster is a good change of pace for a system that's mainly dominated by action and shooter games, and the ability to create your own puzzles is incredible. However, the gameplay balance between modes is aggravating and basically unless you're a complete wiz a large part of the game is almost unplayable.
Random trivia: The only non-launch titles released on the system in 1979 were Mindbuster, Star Trek: Phaser Strike and Vegas Slots.

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