Primrose (DSiWare)

Game Review

Primrose Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Jon Wahlgren

DSiWare sees one of its most rewarding puzzlers yet

Indie (like, really indie) developer Jason Rohrer's portfolio is filled to the brim with what may be best referred to as interactive art: works like Passage, Gravitation and Between operate on a whole different emotional and philosophical plane than a Mario.

So it makes sense that his attempt at a more traditional type of game aligns more with Art Style than PopCap. Primrose is a puzzle game centred around clever tile placement. You're given sets of two coloured tiles at a time to place on the 7x7 grid (a colour-blind mode using symbols is included), and your goal is to surround one grouping of tiles with another colour. Once you finagle this, the surrounded set disappears and the surrounding tiles take on their tint. Three are available to start with and four more unlock as you play; last long enough and your palette bank actually starts to shrink, introducing a whole other set of tactical concerns.

There's no time limit or real level system, and the only restrictions that the game puts on you is on how you place the tiles – the first in the set can go anywhere, but you must place the second in either the same row or column (if possible). Success comes down to how strong your strategy is and how far in advance you're able to think, as placing these haphazardly around the grid is a sure-fire way to paint yourself into a corner. The first chain reaction you plot comes with a great sense of accomplishment unlike what you'll find in something like, say, Bejeweled.

It takes a little while to wrap your brain around how it works, and outside of the tutorial there is zero help in what would be a smart next move. The free-form nature helps Primrose stand out from the rest of the puzzle pack loitering around the DSiWare shop, and it in fact wouldn't be out of place with an Art Style prefix. Some might find the open-endedness a little overwhelming, but stick with it and you'll discover a surprisingly strong puzzler that's different from anything you've played before.

Like Cave Story and Toribash on WiiWare, the full version of Primrose is available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux for free (and as a paid iDevice download) with a more interesting neon visual style. Then again, a DSi is far more easily portable than a computer, and the ability to play on the go is especially welcome for puzzle games. Unfortunately, there's no way to save and resume later, which is disappointing.


Primrose is the kind of game that gives back what you put into it. You can mess around and have a fun enough time, and if you're willing to put the time in to penetrate its intricacies you'll find one of the most rewarding puzzle games currently available on DSiWare. A lack of save feature is unfortunate, but for a scant 200 Points it shouldn't be missed.

From the web

Game Trailer

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User Comments (22)



ErrorSupply said:

Mellow ambient piano keys, like what plays in the trailer.

Nice to see my opinion reflected in the review. This was my first experience with Rohrer's work, but the guy clearly has his head in the right place when it comes to gaming fundamentals. Such an elegantly simple, yet fun and addictive concept.



HolyMackerel said:

My opinion: great for 200 points. Quite reminiscent of Go in terms of game mechanics, which is a little disappointing because it's impossible to improve on Go. Primrose is perhaps not as well thought out as a lot of other puzzlers because strategies are a little shallow for what's supposed to be a thinking man's game. I had a good score going and I suddenly had double cyan blocks showing up repeatedly, forcing me to lose (even after my loss, the next block was a double cyan!). Not sure if that was a bug or if it's meant to happen to ramp up the difficulty artificially. Replayable, but in short bursts (it won't hold your attention for more than 10 minutes, but you'll play it again after a while away from it).

@iphys Very calming, background-y new age music. The sound effects mix with the background music to give it a nice edge when you have a combo going. All in all nothing special, but it sets a relaxing tone and pace.



Kimiko said:

The Art Style games are nice, but I wish there was Bejeweled 2 (not Twist) for DS/i.



Kyloctopus said:

@kimiko Bejewled twist is the greatest puzzler I`ve ever played. Giving a "twist" on the popular game and it turned out to be the best puzzler I played (and it only has two modes 1 player and 2 player but you can make 3 files not that I let other people touch my DS.

@ NL reviewers What many NL dsiware reviewewers don't understand is the quality of 200 point games. You get what you paid for.



Zach said:

@Koops Price shouldn't determine quality in my opinion. If I can cover the cost to make a game and charge only $2, then I will. That's what price should correlate to, not quality. There are some pretty terrible 800 point games, but then there's ones like T-Rex Rumble, which had a large team working on it, so the price makes sense.



iphys said:

Yeah, just because a game is only 200 points doesn't mean we shouldn't expect quality. Life is too short to waste time playing games that don't have quality. 200 points just lowers my expectations as to how much content a game should have.



Philip_J_Reed said:

Actually, I think they understand it just fine, and just have a different opinion on the matter than you do. Hope this helps!



Brainhost said:

Sweet, I want this. But yeah, TBA UK/AUS... too bad.

Waluigi time.

Yeah, I went there.



YoshiSage said:

I would pick this up the instant it comes out in the US, but I made a pledge not to buy anymore DSiWare games, since I plan to get the 3DS at launch.



supercommando440 said:

I see a "record" option. Does this game not allow you to have user-name specific score. Without user-names, you can't tell who owns the score. A common mishap in poor quality games....



ErrorSupply said:

@ supercommando440

It does allow you to enter your name upon achieving a high score. The top 8 players and their score can be viewed via the menu, and the #1 score appears at the title screen along with the earners name.



grumblegrumble said:

It's a'ight. I think after awhile it gets boring and repetitive, and there aren't too many options or other modes of play. Blaaaand as far as games go, I think, but it is fun for a little bit and def well made.



flowerchild said:

My opinion? Really cute game for the points, but I agree with HolyMackerel. Too many double colors as you start to get into the red color, making it almost impossible (at least for me) to score big.



EddieP said:

Abstract puzzle with interesting mechanics. Major fault: getting high scores requires careful planning, which doesn't fit well with the random tile drawing mechanic (yeah, I play tons of boardgames, hence the vocabulary )



xxx_Kirby_xxx said:

Hmm, I want to get this because it's a Jason Rohrer game..... (I really love Alt-Play. Beautiful) Except this seems a little bit too hard for me. I suck at games like this. D:

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