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Game Maker Games - Sapphire Stories: The Luna Staff
 Sapphire Stories: The Luna Staff by GamerHippo7 :3
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Review by Joewoof
Sapphire Stories: The Lunar Staff is probably the only physics-based arcade game to ever feature a complete storyline. The tale begins in the undersea world of Mystic Ocean, where marine creatures live out their lives in peace. When the Lunar Staff, an artifact that maintains balance within the seas, suddenly disappears one day, the undersea currents rage out of control. In their rush to save themselves, a group of octopi is forced to abandon their children. Only Oscar, a bright pink octopus, is brave enough to search and rescue those baby octopi scattered across Mystic Ocean. On his dangerous journey, he encounters many foes and eventually finds a companion who tells him about the Lunar Staff. The fate of Mystic Ocean and many baby octopi lies with him.

In each level, you control Oscar with arrow keys and help him rescue the baby octopi trapped within bubbles of air. At the same time, you have to avoid contact with walls and obstacles. The gameplay is very simple, but its solid physics engine and fast-paced approach keeps it from becoming repetitive. The single main innovation this game features is the T-Count (touch count) system, which not only promotes greater flow to the game, but also adds a strong replay value. It will be further discussed later.

= Attraction =

Excellent.

Everything in this game from the sprites, the music to even the title design is very vivid, colorful and full of life. A light-hearted atmosphere fills the game, nicely complementing its physics-based gameplay, which could have been otherwise nerve-wrecking at times. Without this artistic direction, the players will be much more easily frustrated in later levels. In other words, this energetic theme keeps them going.

The creatures of Mystic Ocean are either very adorable or funny. One particular shark boss makes a hilarious expression when it accidentally swallows a bomb. Oscar himself has an appearance that is reminiscent of a baby, especially when he is doing a victory pose. Likewise, the baby octopi he saves are unbelievably cute, complete with tiny sailor costumes. Unfortunately, Oscar's companion, Marla, is not very charming. That changes at the end of the game, when two pixels of tears sparkle on her round cheeks.

= Variety =

Good.

In terms of what you can do and situations you are placed into, this game definitely offers enough variety, being a physics-based game. How the walls are placed and where the baby octopi are positioned greatly changes how you approach each level. At any given moment, you have to press a combination of keys to avoid collision.

When it comes to the number of different obstacles, however, this game can definitely use more. Too many switches and traps are reused throughout the game, with too few new additions along the way. On the other hand, each obstacle is interesting and introduces new dimensions to gameplay.

The biggest highlight of this game are its bosses. Each boss battle is very well-crafted and requires completely different ways to achieve victory. In one battle, you have to avoid strikes from a shark boss, tricking it into swallowing mines. In another, you have to make a dash through a sunken ship in search for a moment to counterattack. After weakening one boss, you have to catch it and smash its body against underwater stalagmites. Every encounter with a boss is definitely exciting.

In addition, Oscar has to journey through a number of different environments, taking him from coral reefs to the inside of sunken ships and submarines. His adventure also takes him through a submerged ice cavern and an undersea temple.

= Depth =

Fair.

Although it is well-presented and succeeds in driving the game, the story is rather shallow. It seems to serve as a device rather than holding any memorable messages. This is due to the fact that there is little backstory and no conflict between the characters. Some interaction preceding boss fights may have added the antagonists' perspective, adding some depth to the story. At the moment, not even how the Lunar Staff disappeared is touched upon. Oscar's initial goal is to save the baby octopi, and he does not necessarily have to save the entire ocean to do so. Perhaps, he may at first separate ways with Marla. Later, when she deals the final blow to a boss, Oscar may decide to help her find the staff, maybe to repay for her help or maybe because he realizes that he can use her help. There are many possibilities that can be explored and still retain the same storyline.

The game is not complicated, but it does require a level of mastery to beat. By the time you reach the final levels, you must be very quick with your fingers. One obstacle is quite clever and needs some observation, but it alone isn't enough to make a difference.

On the bright side, this game has a very strong replay value. Beating the game once will unlock the Extras section. You cannot enter it unless your T-Count is less than 200. To unlock prizes, your T-Count has to be even lower. This promotes a couple of additional playthroughs at higher levels of difficulty.

= Originality =

Fair.

In terms of gameplay, this game is pretty much the same as many other physic-based titles. There is nothing new in this regard. When it comes to story context though, having to play as an octopus saving its youngsters is incredibly original.

= Smooth Learning Curve =

Excellent.

When you start, you are given a page of instructions. Coupled with the simplicity of the game, it is very easy to get into. Additionally, you can touch the walls without any penalty in the first area of the game, giving you time to experiment with the controls. The game also becomes easier whenever you are presented with a new obstacle, allowing you to adjust to it.

= Flow =

Good.

The flow of this game is very fast-paced and consistent. With your goals, the baby octopi in the bubbles, always in sight, the game has a strong, clear direction. The nice plot helps to nudge the players further onwards. There is rarely a dull moment.

Unfortunately, too many transitions are used, reducing the seamlessness of the game. Worsening this aspect is how the game often resizes its window.

Making up for that, however, is the T-Count system. In this game, touching the walls or dying adds to the T-Count. Oscar does not die when he touches the walls, but he is instead respawned at his starting point without missing a beat. This greatly reduces frustration for the players, as they can immediately retry without redoing the entire level. Hitting certain obstacles still cause death, which leads to a full restart of the level, but that does not happen often.

Although the game is not very dynamic overall, due to its light-hearted nature, there are still moments of anticipation and surprise. Such anticipation is generated through the presentation of the name and image of the bosses immediately preceding a battle. Some of the surprises come from Marla's involvement in the battles.

Additionally, the game automatically saves for you.

= Modulated Challenge =

Good.

This difficulty of this game generally follows the established Difficulty Curve. At the beginning, it starts off very easy. The game slowly becomes harder until about halfway through the game. From there on, the difficulty rises steeply. The harder levels do not become very frustration, due to the fact that there is little penalty associated with losing. Instead of implementing lives or having to start over from the beginning of an area, the T-Count system only keeps track of the number of times you made mistakes. As said before, this serves to provide an incentive for replaying the game, instead of imposing punishments on the player. Very effective.

Furthermore, the game does not follow the Difficulty Curve too strictly. There is often a surprisingly easy level wedged between much harder ones. This technique is frequently used in longer games, such as RPGs, where the experience consistently switches between fields and dungeons, in order to vary the intensity. Since concentrating for too long can lessen the fun, these breaks are often welcome. Unfortunately, for a shorter arcade game, this is not very effective. The problem lies in the fact that the player often expects a gradual climb in the difficulty of levels set in the same surroundings. For this to work, it must be clear that such easier levels are transitional ones that lead to harder levels, through graphics, for instance. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

= Immersion =

Excellent.

The graphics in this game are generally good. The colors are vibrant and the characters are cute. Just about everything works together to create a beautiful "storybook" theme. Unfortunately, there are also a few glaring exceptions. Some of the bosses seem to be at different resolutions than the rest of the characters, taking away the illusion of a believable fantasy world. The purple "C" object is particularly bad. Its colors strongly conflict with the rest of the game.

Sound effects are used well and definitely do their job. Some of the sounds are actually very memorable, such as the "gulp" of the shark boss, or the release of a bomb from the weird blue creature.

Likewise, the story plot is structured and presented well. Much of it is told through animated cutscenes, which is a huge plus. The story starts off with a dreamy introduction that seems like a fairytale. It then throws a strong hook at you, which clearly outlines the point of the game. As you follow Oscar on his journey, you are thrown into increasingly more hostile settings. At the same time, the story retains its light-hearted nature by using friendship as its main theme. No matter what Oscar faces, he will have Marla by his side. Finally, the story ends the same way it starts, which brings everything full-circle.

So far, the immersive experience of the game is nothing amazing, but when it comes to music, it is breathtaking. The original soundtrack illuminates the action flawlessly. Each piece of music fits the game incredibly well, bringing out the full potential of all other elements. The pieces themselves hold memorable melodies. It can be said that the whole game is an interactive interpretation of the music that drives it; the music captures the experience of the game so well that you can almost feel as if you're playing the game from just listening to the music. Very impressive.

= Polish =

Good.

For the most part, the game runs smoothly, without any problems with performance.

There is one collision bug with certain "dark blocks". Fortunately, the restart function alleviates this problem. Although it can be a little annoying, it is only limited to a couple of levels.

Additionally, the game should avoid using the Game Info page for introducing controls, as it is very ugly.

= Overall =

Good.

Sapphire Stories: The Lunar Staff is a wonderful physics-based arcade game that offers adorable characters, a nice story and an amazing original soundtrack. Although it can definitely use more depth and originality, this is a solid game that will not disappoint any player.

Go and save those baby octopi!

~ Joewoof



= Creator's Description =

Sealed within a Runian Temple stands the Luna Staff. Drawing Mana from the moon, it keeps the tides in balance. When this mysterious staff suddenly disappears, insanity ensues as the seas turn tumultuous! Dive into the newest Mystic Ocean game, featuring yet another original soundtrack.
Explore sunken ships, submarines, sand castles, and more, to rescue all the Baby Octopi. Fight for your life, as The seas are teaming with Bosses at every turn.
It's up to Oscar and you to bring peace back to the seas once more. Can you handle it?

Download Sapphire Stories: The Luna Staff (EXE, ~13 MB , Suitable for everyone )

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Recommendations: The 4 people who like Sapphire Stories: The Luna Staff also like the following games.
Comments (Add your own):
2007.02.11 zewie-x
Rating: 5

some body that want to be a new part of zewie?
do you need some help with some games go in on
message:driver and write there
2007.02.02 GamerHippo7
Rating: --

In order to successfully unlock the extras vault you have to beat the game with a T-Count under 200. Without THAT, you get nothing.
2007.02.01 Re_jex
Rating: --

I got the 'extras' thing at the end. It doesn't seem to do anything though! Only shoot little black dots...
2007.01.23 fullbug
Rating: --

Would love to try this, but after 2 days of trying the bandwidth is still exceeded...
2007.01.21 David Lindberg
Rating: --

Link broken....................
2007.01.21 GamerHippo7
Rating: --

Thats because the bandwidth has been exceeded temporarily. Try again later.
2007.01.20 christiandaniel7
Rating: 9

Yes, this game is pretty awesome! Although it got kind of frustrating at some parts :)
2006.12.22 mazimadu
Rating: 9

A wonderful game this is. It is insanely addictive and somewhat cool.
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