Obulis is the first PC release from IonFx, a longtime Pocket PC developer. It’s actually the third installment in the series, with the first two titles out on Windows Mobile. Obulis is a puzzle game in the truest, hardcore sense of the word. I hope you like thinking!
The goal in Obulis is to get the colored balls to their matching pots. To do this, you need to manipulate their physical motion. You can only do this in one way, by cutting rope. You can snip any of the ropes in the game, which usually hold the balls up, but also act as a way to time the release of launchers. The controls allow you to select and destroy rope as separate actions, which helps with difficult timing (although, annoying, if you use right-click to cut a rope you still have to select it first–it should be one click).
The physics engine in Obulis is wholly inelastic, which support many of the puzzle designs. When a ball rolls into another ball, it comes to a complete stop, with the second ball taking on all of its velocity. There is only so much potential energy in each level, so you’ll find yourself re-routing energy through multiple balls. Visualizing the total remaining energy will be key to solving the puzzles.
My big complaint with true puzzle games is the nature of complexity. In order for a puzzle game to become more difficult, the designer needs to do some really clever stuff. In my mind, the fun of the game should boil down to the player re-discovering the clever solution for themselves. But sometimes it just feels like the level designer is showcasing their cleverness without any consideration for the player. Personally I would enjoy more levels with open-ended setups, where I can fudge the solution (Armadillo Run does this fantastically). Obulis has a much tighter possibility space; most levels must be solved exactly as the designer intended.
The other complaint I have with Obulis is the nature of the timing involved to get the physics right. It’s very annoying to have a realization about what you’re supposed to do, and then have to beat your head against the wall to get the timing correct. Watch the end of the gameplay video for an example of this in action.
Puzzle Gamers Rejoice!
I’m willing to admit that I just don’t have the right state of mind to enjoy a puzzle game like Obulis. The production value is fantastic, and many of the levels are a joy to play, but it’s also an amazing frustration generator. If you have the stomach for that kind of thing, or feel some strange pressure to prove yourself to game designers, then Obulis is very definitely the game for you.
Download Obulis Demo (33.5 MB)
Or visit the Obulis website for more information. The full version costs $19.99 USD.