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Game Maker Games - *
Review by Joewoof
Puzzle games tend to fall into two categories, games that are too simple and games that are too complicated. Once in a while, a highly strategic-yet-simple game appears, out of nowhere. Asterisk, officially known as the symbol, *, is one such game.

The gameplay of Asterisk is very simple. During each level, orbs of different colors drop down the screen. You click on these orbs, causing them to pop and release stars in various directions. These may hit other orbs, causing a chain reaction. While you are doing so, you have to watch your Health Bar. It drops with each click you make and rises with each extra orb the stars hit. There are many kinds of orbs, each throwing stars in different directions. One special orb rewards you with additional Health, while another - a dark orb - reduces it.

Here is where the game becomes complex. While the orbs are dropping, you have
to constantly analyze the situation as best and fast you can, clicking on the
orb that will set off the best chain reaction. Clicking on every orb you see
will quickly deplete your Health. At the same time, you have to avoid hitting
the dark orb.

Adding essential spice into the mix are buyable items. Every 2 levels, you
gain access to the Shop, where you can spend your Score to buy up to 3 items.
These items themselves provide more strategy to the game, as using them
effectively requires certain tactics in itself.

- - -

= Target Appeal =
the cool stuff

Good.

This game uses a stylish, futuristic & metallic theme that fits reasonably
well with the gameplay context. It is also quite attractive and gives the
game a certain "professional" look.

However, this metallic look is also "monotonish", which may contrast badly with
the vivid, colorful orbs. Perhaps, if the orbs are also metallic themselves
(using color-tints instead of coloring them entirely), these elements may
better fit together. Of course, you can say that this monotone allows the
player to focus on the orbs and not the surrounding interface.

- - -

= Immersion =
the sweet stuff

Good.

This game is not all that graphically impressive, but everything from the
cursors, the items, to the special effects look stylish and attractive. On
the other hand, many other graphics are inconsistent in quality. The orbs
look a little rough on the edges. The loading image is amateurish. Not only
that, the main menu looks cluttered and again, a little amateurish. In other
words, the outside menu needs some work, while the level screen itself is
well-done.

The sound effects is one main highlight of this game. It boasts a large
assortment, with a sound for just about everything. The twinkling sound for
getting bonus points, in particular, is very pleasing to hear.

The music cannot get any better for the theme of the game. The main piece is
highly atmospheric and engaging at the same time. It alone can create the
driving force for you to keep on playing.

As with many puzzle games, story context is non-existent.

- - -

= Polish =
the nitpicky stuff

Fair.

One problem with this game is the painstakingly-slow fade-in of the main menu
screen. For a puzzle game, this is especially disastrous as it is meant to be
played over many short sessions.

In many good puzzle and action games that involve making chain effects, with
each additional hit, a higher pitch version of the original sound is played.
Bonuses also become progressively higher. One classic example is Super Mario
World (SNES), where jumping on enemies consecutively plays a higher "bonk"
sound and yields higher scores. This game does not have any of that, which
can potentially, greatly spice up the game and enhance the rewarding
experience from getting longer chains.

Otherwise, there are no other problems.

- - -

= Originality =
the new stuff

Excellent.

The gameplay concept of this game is very new and interesting. Coupled with
its theme, this game presents itself as being completely unique.

- - -

= Smooth Learning Curve =
the learning stuff

Good.

This game has a highly interactive tutorial built into the game engine
itself. It is incredibly well-made and does a great job of teaching you the
basics of the game.

However, many essential tactics are left for players to figure out by
themselves. This allows for experimentation, which some may find fun, but it
makes the game a little too difficult in the beginning. This is because,
playing the game a certain way will cause it to drag and become more
difficult than playing it another way. For example, some players may
never realize that it is better to let some orbs be destroyed than
click all of them, while aiming for the best ones. Others may also not
realize that they should wait a few moments for the screen to fill up before
they start clicking. The tutorial should teach players these "little tricks",
and by doing so, hint at the strategic depth of the game.

- - -

= Variety =
the many stuff

Good.

As said earlier, there are different kind of orbs. The basic ones shoot stars
in two directions. The red orb shoots horizontally. The blue orb shoots
vertically. The green and teal orbs shoot diagonally. There is also the
orange orb, which releases a number of stars in random directions. There is
also the Health orb and the dark orb, which increases and decreases health
respectively. Although there is a enough, it doesn't hurt to add a little
more. For instance, adding an all-direction orb, a 4-direction orb, a 4-
diagonal orb and such can further enhance the game a great deal.

What really makes the game interesting is the items. There are several, each
with completely different effects and requiring a completely different tactic
to use. They'll be discussed later.

- - -

= Challenge =
the hard stuff

Lacking.

The game starts off really slow and easy, which is great for such a unique
game. The problem is that while the difficulty increases, it does so
extremely slowly. In fact, unless you've reached Level 15, it is hardly
noticeable. And worse, to reach Level 15, you'd have spent almost an hour
playing the game. There is a strategic trick to reach as high as Level 30,
and that is when things get really hectic. However, to get that far normally
will take an eternity. Most of the time, you do not feel that you've
progressed at all, as the speed difference between each level is unfathomably
tiny. To make things worse, each level is very long. This means that, for
much of the time, the difficulty level does not climb at all.

During your first play, the difficulty level will be good. However, on
subsequent sessions, this game will start to drag and ultimately become a
bore, due to its lack of sufficient climb in challenge.

- - -

= Depth =
the deep stuff

Excellent.

Many elements of this game is strategic. The most apparent is the moment-by-
moment decision making you need to do. You have to quickly determine which
orbs will set off the best chains before they reach the end of the screen.
You have to also decide your playstyle. Being aggressive will raise your
score faster and allow you to reach the next level sooner. The downside is
that your will quickly deplete your Health if you are not careful. Being
cautious and selective, only choosing to click if you can make a chain is
also a good idea, as your Health won't drop as fast (or at all), but it takes
longer to reach the next level.

The greatest amount of strategy lies in figuring out how to most effectively
use the buyable items. For example, Health Freeze prevents your Health from
changing. This allows you to click on everything on the screen with impunity.
It can also buy you some time before your Health runs out in a desperate
situation. The best way to use it is to use it right after you bought it.
Doing so freezes your Health when it is full, allowing you to get extra
points for each and every chain you make. Better yet, buy three Health Freeze
items and use all of them right after each other! Not only can you save a
great deal of Health, but you can also gain a huge amount of points. Another
example is using Explosion alongside Slow Down. Slow Down slows the rate at
which the orbs fall, allowing them to bunch together and allowing you to make
a couple of long chains. If you use Explosion, which wipes out the entire
screen, giving you points for each orb, right after Slow Down ends, you can
maximize the amount of points you earn.

Many other tricks are possible in this game, waiting for you to discover.
Together, they add a huge amount of replay value and make the game very
strategic.

- - -

= Overall =

Good.

Asterisk (aka. *) is a wonderful puzzle game with many
attractive qualities. It has a very unique gameplay that is both simple and
strategic at the same time. There are some pitfalls, namely in terms of
polish and challenge, but the game remains very enjoyable, regardless.

Try it. There's nothing quite like it.

~ Joewoof




= Creator's Descriptions =

" * " is a unique, never-before seen mix between action and puzzle. With easy controls and an extensive tutorial, you'll jump right into the intuitive gameplay quickly.
The game is one of those "easy to learn, yet difficult to master" puzzles. Simply click on an orb and watch its respective stars shoot out of it. If those stars hit another orb, its stars will shoot out as well, allowing for some massive chain reactions. One good click on the right conditions and your score (and health) skyrockets. But a few bad clicks and you'll find yourself in trouble.

This game can be surprisingly strategic. It's unwise to "just click around" as you quickly will realize that doesn't get you far. Instead, you have to think quickly on your feet, evaluating which orb will set off the largest reaction and actually clicking on it before it hits the bottom.

Use your hard-earned points for useful items the shop, test new strategies and strive for the highest level possible. That's what * is all about!

====ATTENTION!!====A NEW BUG FIX VERSION HAS BEEN RELEASED AS OF 5/6/06. If you downloaded the game prior to the above date, I urge all to redownload the game for the new bug-free version.

Download * (EXE, ~5.15 MB , Suitable for everyone )

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Recommendations: The 2 people who like * also like the following games.
Comments (Add your own):
2007.09.19 xtreme0ninja
Rating: --

there is nothing in the zip folder.
2007.06.10 Quack_Kills
Rating: 7

Great game, I liked the effects and looks of it but the gameplay got boring then it wasnt fun. Make a sequel with a Fast Mode :D
2007.05.25 Legendary
Rating: 6

It was well made and looked good, but it got a little repetitive and was a little slow for me.
2007.01.31 LordMetroid
Rating: 9

Flawless, but not very addicting. But who cares! It's great!
2007.01.21 serprex
Rating: 6

The gameplay seemed slow and repetive. Being that I am rating it as a puzzle game, it has only one very poor puzzle. I believe this game would be more suitable in the arcade category.
2007.01.08 twizko
Rating: 9

very very nice, i keep a folder on my pc wer i save ONLY my favorite gm games... this one makes it in =]
2006.12.18 Force
Rating: 8

A very nice work of stragetic class
2006.09.30 RockyRan
Rating: --

ATTENTION: The link was temporarily and rather mysteriously down. I checked again the link and it seems to not have a problem anymore, so the link SHOULD be working. If it doesn't, post again saying so.
2006.08.26 Red Blade
Rating: --

Wahhhh!!! I wanna download load it, but:

The page cannot be found
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This link should be fixed, Kay?
2006.05.28 Mostis
Rating: 9

This is a fun and very addictive game. It's kinda slow, but that's the only thing I dislike about it.
2006.05.27 F.S.
Rating: --

I found a bug: I lost a game, but was able to sign in in the highscore table infinite times
2006.05.26 F.S.
Rating: 8

I really liked this game, but the gameplay was too simple, but: great animations!
2006.05.23 LegoCrazy1
Rating: 9

Ok Ill sum my comment up-'This Game is Awsome!' The game play is great, so are the graphics. The only problem I have is the music, I think its kinda annoying.
2006.04.24 Jabberwock
Rating: 10

Wow. This is one of the most professional-looking, not to mention downright fun, Game Maker games I have ever played. You could sell this if you wanted. The graphics are great, the sound is good, and the gameplay is excellent. Great work, and I hope to see more from you.
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