Prime Mover

Norway

So when Casper came up with this indie-month for our site, one of the options I saw was “Prime Mover”. At first, I thought of the okay racing-game from 1993 with an awesome soundtrack due to the lovely bass, but that did not make sense as it was not an indie-game. I think. Next on my mind was the monotheistic concept advanced by Aristotle about the primary cause or a “mover” of all the motion in the universe. Then it hit me….. It has to be something more technical than this and surprise: It is. I am not an engineer, so take my words with a pinch of salt, but from what I can tell after skimming on Wikipedia, it represents any machine that converts energy from its source into mechanical energy, often related to moving vehicles. Great, so is this a racing-game as well? Nope, it is a puzzle game!

Uhm, just saving the world I guess

There is actually a form of story put into this game, and while it helps with its intriguing visuals and setting, what is going on is utterly uninteresting. The short story tells about you as an engineer, who takes on saving the world from a glowing rift. This is about it, and every cutscene is told with an alien-language, which you can translate into our own alphabet with some dedication, but it does not give much more insight than what you already see. It is just bland and, with such wonderful visuals going to waste on a pretentious story, its only positive input is the lesson that: “anyone can be the hero, but must you choose to be one”. It really did not need this huge storyline for a pipe-puzzle game, especially when they are barely connected.

Story Score: 3/10

If this is what being an engineer is like, I missed out

Speaking of, this is a pipe-puzzle game where you try to get the correct number from one side of the screen to the other, with some alterations put in later on. This starts out simple enough, with each puzzle being set on an 8 by 8 tile, where you place down an unlimited amount of pipes, bridges, tiles that duplicate numbers, combines two pipelines into one and others. However, as soon as you learn about the different tiles’ functions, such as shifting lanes, divide positive, negative and zero numbers, those that adds and subtracts numbers, and others, you are thrown into solving the puzzles yourself.

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This is a steep learning curve as, while you are given a great tutorial to show you every pipe’s functionality and how they can combine for use, you are basically thrown into every problem and have to solve them yourself. It gets hard as soon as possible, with problems being demanding and might need multiple setups, as well as retries, as even the speed of your pipe’s movements, must be taken in consideration in order to get the numbers over in both the wished order and the exact number.

What is great, however, is because of the amount of free creativity, and even ability to make more tiles to work on thanks to micro-panels to put in, you are free to make a setup that you believe will work. A great example is how I made a setup that took up the entire screen before I realized that there was a much simpler solution I could do that only took up a third at most. If this should occur to you, there are also two other panels you can use to experiment with, in case you want to try another idea, but save your old one as a backup plan. You can always test out your creation and speed it up, and reset the number-blocks if your solution is not correct.

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In total, there are 34 puzzles with 13 being tutorials, but the other 21 are brutal from the start with each onwards getting harder and more demanding. To give you an idea: the last puzzle took me over two hours to actually find a solution for, and in no way am I gonna publish what mine was. Though this gets quite difficult, almost to the point of throwing a baby in the lake and let them learn how to swim on their own, I actually also enjoy this as you are given every option available and all the time and freedom to find your answer to a problem. If you struggle with one puzzle, you can also choose to take on another one, and you only need to beat 24 of these puzzles in order to reach the ending. It could use more puzzles for a good difficulty curve, but every puzzle gives something new and insightful to try out, making the game never dull for a complete playthrough. Despite this, I would not recommend it unless you are an incarnation of one of the most brilliant minds there is like Albert Einstein, unless you want to lose what’s left of your hair.

Gameplay Score: 8/10

Back to the workbench

I am always weak for pixel-art when it’s done right, and Prime Mover does not disappoint with huge pixels creating smooth animations, lovely visual effects for lighting, and gorgeous cutscenes that are all in motion. However, while the cutscenes are lovely, the workbench gets quickly repetitive.

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Sure, everything around changes depending on where you are, from a traditional technical workbench, to labs, and even an alien facility. However, we always have the same shades of green, making it hard to appreciate the subtle differences, especially when you are traveling to different places. Why not at least give variety in colors or more creative tiles that are more diverse in looks? At least the puzzles are accompanied by a score that is absolutely relaxing and mysterious chillstep. It works perfectly with the electric and mechanical theming in the visuals, as it both enhances what you are doing, and yet makes you relaxed with echoes and light tones.

Presentation Score: 7/10

Solving for satisfaction

As of what I can tell, you don’t get much from finishing all of the puzzles, besides the satisfaction of doing them all. It is nice to feel a genuine reward from actually being intelligent and going the distance, and all puzzles are diverse and fun to solve. It could have just used more for giving you a reward for actually finishing them. Just no more puzzles, as what is here, is more than enough for my brain to feel smart.

Extra Score: 6/10

Verdict

As a puzzle-game alone, Prime Mover offers enough to be worth your time, despite its steep difficulty. Sadly, it is everything around that drags the experience down, which is an interesting element. Presentation could have had more diverse colors and creativity, solving everything is not worth it except for the satisfying puzzles alone, and the story could have been dropped completely. Really, if you just want a great puzzle-game, this is worth it, just don’t expect the same amount of quality in style or replay value.

60/100

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