Review: Christmas Clix (WiiWare)

Will Clix click with puzzler fans?

With the holidays fast approaching, we always seem to see at least a handful of aptly-themed games to go along with them. This year is no different on the WiiWare service with the release of JV Games' new puzzler Christmas Clix. Christmas Clix takes the classic "falling blocks" idea and combines it with a few new play control twists to form one of the more unique holiday puzzle releases to date and a game with a surprising amount of strategy and depth. But is this single-player experience really solid enough to warrant its slightly steep 1,000 Wii Point price tag, not to mention your valuable holiday gaming time?

If you've ever played any of the many falling block variety of puzzlers, you're likely to immediately feel at home with Christmas Clix. Your goal is to eliminate all of the Christmas presents and ornaments as they begin to build up on the playing field. As you take presents and ornaments out, decorations will be added to the Christmas tree next to the playing field. Once you've completely filled the tree with decorations, the tree top star will fall into the playing field, which you can click on to end the level.

To take out the presents and ornaments, you must match a present or ornament of one color with another that's directly next to it. With presents you can even take out more than two by selecting the first present in a line and then the present at the end of the line or even take out blocks of presents if you manage to have them all line up properly. As you eliminate presents and ornaments, candy canes will be dropped to the bottom of the screen that you can scoop up. If you can accumulate enough candy canes, you'll get a Special Event Star to drop down with a group of presents that will offer you up a power-up that can be useful for taking out large groups of presents and ornaments.

The game uses several power-ups ranging from a snowman that will allow you to toss snowballs at the presents to take them out quickly or even a tiny race car that you can drive over presents and ornaments with. You'll need these power-ups later on in the game when the presents and ornaments begin falling quicker. This will require you to find a good balance between taking out the presents and ornaments and scooping up candy canes to acquire power-ups. It adds a fun yet frantic pace to the later levels that makes the game quite challenging.

Another unique aspect of Clix are the mini-games. There are ten mini-games to unlock; these include everything from a Hit the Snowman snowball throwing contest to a Breakout-style one of taking out shards of ice for extra points. As you collect coins in the game, you'll eventually see a Toy Soldier pop up on the playing field. If you click on the soldier, you'll be taken to one of the mini-games. You can even go back on the main menu and play only the mini-games if you choose to. Of course, only the mini-games you've unlocked will be available for play.

The play control in Christmas Clix is quite easy to pick up and play and the added gameplay twists add plenty of depth and strategy to the experience. The mini-games are a nice diversion, but most of them are a tad on the easy side, so they're not likely to appeal as much to more experienced gamers. With 100 levels to play through, there's plenty of puzzle action to keep even the most ardent fan of the genre happy. Couple all of this with a smooth increase in difficulty and what you have is easily one of the better WiiWare puzzle experiences.

Visually Christmas Clix is solid. Not only does it have a very smooth look to it, but there's quite a bit of detail in the backdrops. There's also a lot of variety between the playing fields as each new Christmas tree is not only a different color but the backdrop itself is unique and matches as well. Even the presents and ornaments that fill up the playing field are very well drawn and animated as you roll over them with your pointer. While the mini-games themselves look a bit drab in places, the rest of the game shows a surprising amount of polish for a simple WiiWare puzzler.

As you'd expect from a Christmas-themed release, there are some really catchy Christmas tunes to be heard. You might even recognize a couple of them, like "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." Even the tracks that don't seem all that familiar have plenty of Christmasy charm to them. The sound effects are equally well executed, although the lack of a "Ho-Ho-Ho" when Santa shoots the presents and ornaments from his bag is a bit disappointing. About the only complaint that could be leveled against the audio package might be that given the games huge number of levels, it might have been nice to have had a couple of more musical tracks to mix things up a little bit more. Other than that, it's a solid musical effort and compliments the game's Christmas theme quite well.

Conclusion

There's absolutely no denying that Christmas Clix is a fun and engaging puzzler that should appeal to many fans of the genre. Not only does the game sport a very easy control system, it has plenty of gameplay variety to keep things interesting. Of course, as enjoyable as the single-player experience is, you can't help but come away from it with a nagging feeling that the game could have been so much more had it featured a 2-player competitive mode of play, especially given the game's frantic pace and variety of ways to score points. But if you can overlook this glaring omission and just enjoy the title as a solo experience, you're likely to find a game your entire family can enjoy during the holidays. Just not at the same time.

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