Review: Glyph

It has been 7 months already since Astraware released Glyph, another game that’s licensed from Sandlot Games – just like Tradewinds 1 and 2. (By the way, check this image from Sandlot Games – how great would it be if Tradewinds Legends would also come to our PPC’s?!). The PDA version is developed by Binoteq and published by Astraware. Confusing, I know!

 

Glyph is one of those games where you have to group similar blocks together and make them disappear. “Those block grouping games again, don’t they ever stop?” you might ask. Well, if Astraware keeps finding ways to distribute original games like this, they should go on for many years to come!

This game made me remember that when I first powered on my PPC, I found a game called Bubble Breaker pre-installed on the device. It’s been a long while since I played it, but now that I’ve played Glyph, the memory comes back. That is to say, both games are based on the same idea where you tap on groups of three or more blocks that have the same color. Then those blocks disappear, the remaining blocks drop into the empty spaces. However, Glyph is so much more, and you can find out why by reading the rest of this post!

Installation and trial

There’s nothing special when it comes to installation. You can install from your desktop PC or with a .cab file, and installation on Storage Card works perfectly fine. The trial is limited to 10 plays, so I suggest spending 5 plays on Quest mode and 5 on Action mode. The trial also limits you to only play the first 10 levels in each mode, so you’ll need to register in order to unlock the full game.

Main and Menu screens

After starting the game on a portrait screen, your screen immediately rotates to landscape. You are asked to enter your name, so that a player account can be created for you. A total of 5 player accounts can be created, so you and your family or friends can work on Quests without interfering with the gameplay of someone else. The first thing to note is that on every screen there is a “Close” button in the top right. After entering your name, you are taken to the main menu screen.

There you’ll first see the “Play” button, where you can start a new Quest or Action game, or continue one of your excisting games (not visible in the screenshot, but they’ll appear as soon as you’ve started a game). The “Change player” item takes you to the screen above, on the right, where you can change your player or edit it’s name.

In the Options section, various settings are available. First of all, you can totally mute the sound with one simple tap. Under that, you can also change the sound and music volume with a slider, or mute just one of them (or both, but then you could as well use the Mute All button).

The Game options allow some nice customization. You can disable the Tips, set the brightness of the stones and background (previewed in the small bar in the top of the screen), and change the orientation between automatic, or left- or righthanded. Inbetween some screens, the game will give an almost white bright screen, which I found annoying when I was playing it late at night in bed. I would have really appreciated an option to disable those transitions here.
Next are the Controls, where you can change which hardware buttons should use an artifact, or open the in-game menu. Finally, there are also Credits for Astraware, Sandlot Games, and Binoteq, and you can view your highscores for both Quest and Action mode.

Last but certainly not least in the main menu, are the Register item where you can unlock all levels after purchasing a registration code, and the seven Help pages, which introduce you to the game modes and explain the various artifacts that are available in Quest and Action mode.

The game!

If you still know Bubble Breaker, then you know the system on which this game is based. Your playing field is filled with stones of several colors, and you can make them disappear by tapping on a group of three or more stones of the same color. Then all stones above it drop down due to gravity. While Bubble Breaker is based on just this, this game goes further.

In Quest mode, the game story will be revealed to you partly before the game (with a spoken voice!), and partly during the game. The world you are trying to save is based on 5 elements (which corresponds to 5 worlds of 25 levels each, so that’s 125 levels in total. These elements need to be combined in order to restore a dying world. After completing 5 levels in one part of the world, you can combine the fragments into a glyph shard. Each glyph has it’s own resonance, and if you manage to copy the order in which the glyph fragments resonate, the glyph magically recovers itself. Just watch in which order the fragments are highlighted and copy this pattern by tapping the fragments with your stylus or pressing the D-Pad. 4 Glyph fragments complete a glyph shard, 5 shards complete an elemental glyph,, and 5 elemental glyphs will save the world!your playing field is not only covered by gemstones, but also by several layers of rock.

Your playing field in a level consists of various colored stones, which are covering layers of rock. Every time you make a group of stones with the same color disappear, not only new stones are inserted from the top, but also a layer of rock is removed from the places where you deleted the stones. So, as you will understand, in hard-to-reach corners where it’s difficult to find groups, it will also be harder to crack the rock layers. However, behind your playing field, a part of a glyph is hidden. The goal in Quest mode is to remove the rock that covers the glyph fragment before the timer runs out. (so if you’re lucky, you won’t have to worry about those annoying hard-to-reach corners if they don’t cover the glyph fragment, as can be seen in the screenshot above – top left corner). Glyph has really great introduction screens which will explain EVERYTHING. There’s no point in the game where you should have a question on how something works.

The timer (in the top left) gets re-filled when you pop a group of stones. While you are cracking the rock that’s covering a fragment, you can also try to boost your score by ‘popping’ gemstones on other locations, since this will continue to contribute to your score (and refill the timer, of course).
As soon as you’ve completely cleared the rock that was hiding the glyph fragment, that level will be completed.

During the game, several new bits will be added to the gameplay. For example, obsidian stones are black stones that can’t be grouped together, so you will have to find other ways to make them disappear. Some obsidian stones even spread like a virus! Also, soon you’ll find that an X is placed over a stone color in the bottom of the screen, and this means that if you pop a group of stones with this color, the rock behind it will not crack. So while you can still continue to make groups of these stones disappear, you’ll need to use the other colored stones to break away the layers of rock and uncover the glyph fragment. Finally, solid rock stones will not move at all, these can only be removed with a Flash Bomb (see below).

Luckily, you’ll also find artifacts along your way. When you pop large groups of glyphs, you are awarded with one of several artifacts, each of which have a powerful feature. The following artifacts can be aquired:
Chroma Bombs, this is like a traffic light with rotating colors, that remove gems of the color they are showing when tapped.
Flash Bomb, this one removes all gems and stones from the higlighted area
Row/Column Breaker, these remove entire rows or columns
Color Spread, with this artifact, you can change highlighted stones into a particular colour
Color Dissolve, this removes all gems of one colour
Stone Sorter, all stones are sorted by colour so you can easily remove a large group
All artifacts can be charged twice after you recieve it, and with a “max” charged artifact, it will be a lot easier to get out of difficult situations.

As I’ve said earlier, after completing 4 levels you’ll have to mimic the resonating glyph fragments, in order combine them into a glyph shard which will then be placed on the Elemental screen. Here you can see that this shard (after completing 5 levels: 4 actual Glyph levels and one Resonate level) is 1/5th of the top left element, and that there are 5 elements in total. Restore all elements in order to save the world!

Then there is action mode, where you don’t have to worry about glyphs, but about your playing field getting filled with stones. This is because as soon as the timer is filled, a row of stoned will be added from – in general – the bottom, and you wouldn’t want your entire playing filled to be filled with stones! So hurry up, and make those gemstones disappear as quickly as you can. Again, you will see the timer (if it’s filled, a new row of stones appears), and also added now is a Push button, which you can use to make the new row of stones appear before the timer fills. This can speed up the game, if you like. The green bubble on the left displays your remaining lives.

Action mode comes with these special artifacts which are, unlike in Quest mode, included between the other stones, so you can just click them from inside the playing field:
Pillar artifact, which randomly destroys two columns of the playing field
Extract, which removes one random stone in each column
Also cool are the special golden stones, which will immediatly complete the level if you can group three of them together. After completing a level you will see your results, and move on to the next level.

Each 4th level will have gems quickly dropping from above, and each 5th level is a bonus level where grouping gems is easy, so you can try to generate a nice bonus. In this screen, you need to first remove the blue and green lines, so you are left with one giant red group, which will give you lots of points.

Conclusion

The bad:

  • Not too generous trial 
  • Small font and icons for Artifacts
  • Bright white screens inbetween levels, annoying when you play late at night in a dark room

The good:

  • Everything else. Including:
  • Great implementation of an old game, to the point that you hardly recognize it
  • Outstanding (!!) graphics, even for Astraware standards
  • An actual voice telling the (also on-screen written) story
  • Very good introduction screens
  • 125 Quest levels
  • Challenging Action mode

The short trial doesn’t hurt anymore after you’ve purchased the game. The artifact representation does, but I’ve found myself using the artifacts anyway as soon as they reached MAX, so it didn’t matter too much which artifact it turned out to be. They were all a great help! The bright white screens did bother me, and it would be great if they could be disabled in a future update.

So, these minor points don’t really have an impact on the great entertainment value this game has. Block grouping games are popular, and Astraware knows it. Of course there’s Bejeweled 2, which everyone knows, and Chuzzle, which is even better in my opinion. Glyph is another one that fits very well in that category, with comparable cool gameplay and even better graphics!

Name: Glyph
Version: 1.00
By: Astraware, licensed by Sandlot Games
Platforms/OS: PPC, SP, Palm. For PPC, PPC 2002 – WM 5 are supported.
Resolutions: Square (240*240), QVGA (240*320) and VGA (480*640), plays in Landscape by default.
Price: $19.95
Download trial or purchase!

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3 thoughts on “Review: Glyph

  1. Do you know how you earn extra lives in action mode? I have been able to earn one in 1-5 but I dont think I have ever gotten another one no matter how far I go?

  2. Unfortunately, I have no idea. I recently got Glyph for iPhone and also got the extra life in level 1-5. But I was rather surprised that I got it, and don’t remember anything like this from the PPC version. If you really want to know, you can contact Astraware on http://www.astraware.com. :)

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