Review: Lonpos (WiiWare)

Does this WiiWare puzzler have what it takes to stand out from the crowd?

Having been available since WiiWare launched in Japan, Lonpos' Western release has been a long time coming. The game itself has been adapted from a popular logic puzzle game of the same name. The question, of course, is how well does it fare against the many puzzle titles already on WiiWare?

At its core, Lonpos is a pretty basic puzzle game. To complete a stage, the player is required to simply manipulate a set number of shapes (known as Pentominoes) so that they can be successfully placed onto a rectangular 2-dimensional grid that houses an increasingly smaller number of shapes already integrated. Taking the role of the singular controller, the Wii remote’s motion controls and IR pointer are used to carry out any change to a shape.

Each Pentomino can be rotated in 90° intervals by tilting the remote left or right, whereas pressing and holding the “B” button grabs the shape. Once a shape is seized, the player can move the remote to place it in a vacant position on the grid, or drop it at the side of the grid so the player can attempt to fit another piece. And that’s pretty much it, except for the use of the “– “ button which returns your chosen Pentomino to its starting position on the side of the grid and the “A” button which flips your shape. Anyone who has played the puzzle game before will know how well Lonpos works, and how addictive it is; it’s no different here.

As well as the standard single player mode where you simply play through levels of increasing difficulty, a more challenging "continuous" mode is also available, which asks the player to complete stages without putting any piece in the wrong order on the grid. Additionally, Lonpos features cooperative (2 players) and versus (2-4 players) multiplayer modes. The former mode involves two players taking turns to place a piece in the correct position until the puzzle is completed whereas the latter consists of either competing for the best finish time or highest score. Both modes are executed well but aren’t different enough from the single player mode to act as much more than a distraction. A nice feature of the game is the ability to compare your own personal stats to see how you rank up against the best, with the ability to challenge your friends via Nintendo’s Wi-Fi connection also an option.

Visually, Lonpos looks distinctly average, and is pretty much what you’d expect considering it’s a puzzle game played on the exact same grid for every stage. As a result of this, the interface can quickly become very boring and you’ll definitely want a change of scenery, which unfortunately the game just won’t provide. Likewise, Lonpos’ menu screens are just as basic and provide the bare minimum of options. Furthermore, a quite perplexing omission from the game is widescreen support. Similarly basic is the game’s soundtrack, which, during games, features similar-sounding tunes repeating over and over again. The tracks suit the nature of the game but after hearing them for the umpteenth time it’s sure to drive you up the wall. Considering that each stage involves doing the exact same thing a few extra tracks ought to have been thrown in to mix up the mood.

Lonpos offers several downloadable content packs, all of which can be purchased from within the game’s virtual store. The developer has seen fit to charge a hefty 500 Wii points per pack. Considering the price of Lonpos is only 300 points more and each pack consists of new levels and alternative backgrounds, the asking price for the DLC is a bit extravagant. If you want to experience all that the game has to offer you’ll need to shell out a significant number of your beloved points; it would have made much more sense to include all of the content with the game and perhaps charge 1000 points instead of 800. We honestly can't see many people shelling out the cash for these packs.

The main problem we have with the game lies in its standard control system. Tilting the Wii remote to rotate shapes is a bit too fiddly for a game that requires as much trial and error as Lonpos does. On more than one occasion (most likely when you're just starting to play the game) you’ll find yourself becoming increasingly frustrated with the sensitivity of the controller tilts: the game engine too frequently finds it difficult to judge how you want your rotations to translate on-screen. However, an alternative control scheme in the form of holding the Wii remote horizontally and using only the buttons is available, accessed from the pause menu at any point. Another issue with Lonpos is the price: 800 Wii points is too much to part with considering how simple the game is, and greater variety really should have been provided to account for the cost.

Conclusion

Lonpos’ transition to WiiWare is a faithful rendition of the logic puzzle game, and there’s no doubt that the gameplay is as addictive as ever. Fairly minor flaws in the default control scheme and an overall lack of variety in presentation hold it back from being in the same league as the best of WiiWare’s puzzle titles, but if you’re a fan of the genre and won’t mind increasingly difficult puzzles using the same formula, there’s definitely fun to be had here. Ultimately though, Lonpos does very little to make itself stand out from the abundance of alternative WiiWare puzzlers and the price doesn’t quite justify what’s on offer here.

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