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JadeDragon's reviews and playing tips: Palm and Pocket PC games

Mazera by Astraware, Price: $29.95
Reviewed November 2004 by Tony Peak

In Mazera you play as Ix, kidnapped as a boy by the Mazerians, you are now just an exhibit in their alien zoo. That is all about to change however, when one ordinary day a strange fruit grows in your habitat you have never seen before. Not being an overly caution one, you say what the hay and gobble it down. And so begins your adventure home.

Mazera is at its heart a puzzle type adventure, deeply infused into an adventure game engine. Rather than simply give the user a series of levels or stages to clear, Mazera instead presents a complete world and builds the puzzles into the world itself. As you wonder around the over-world map and into various sectors and puzzles, it's hard not to be reminded of the Legend of Zelda, only without the weapons and with a stronger focus on puzzle solving. Mazera would have been fun as a series of challenges or levels, but as a complete adventure it really shines. On your quest you'll find enemies to outwit, allies to help, traps to avoid, secrets to uncover, and even a mini-game or two.

Everything is quite well coded throughout, the enemies all respond well and I noticed very few bugs or odd glitches in the AI or puzzles. While the game can be tricky at times, overall it's very relaxing to play for long periods of time. I don't feel the game was too easy, but even the toughest puzzles could be figured out with a bit of thought and some trial and error. It's a really good mix of being possible and logical, yet without being obvious. I often pulled up a game just for a few minutes and ended up playing for an hour or more.

The tilemaps and sprites are overall quite impressive, and I like how smooth everything moves. While it can be a bit hard to judge your exact position at times in the beginning, it really gets easier with play. The sprites and tiles all look very professional, varied, and clean. The sound goes so far as to include a commissioned 30 minute musical score, which is great considering the length of time you'll be playing this in one sitting.

If you're a puzzle gaming fan with a fondness of the adventure games of old, it's hard to go wrong with Mazera. While it may be a bit steep for some gamers, the production quality is solid all around. The quality easily matches a Game Boy level game. I really don't think anyone who's not dead set against games above a certain price point will be disappointed with their purchase. It's great to see such a complete package on the Pocket PC.

Playing Hints and Tips

- If you're stuck, try some brute force tactics and see what works. You've got unlimited tries, so just look carefully at what happens and soon enough you should see the answer. Also, use can reset a room from the menu.

- If you push a block against a wall, then push it again, it will flip around you. This is one of the handiest moves in the adventure.

- It seems if you get all the map pieces, a secret area awaits.

 

screen shot

 

Palm
Pocket PC

 

Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):

Graphics Smooth scrolling tile graphics and sprites make for a great adventure engine. From the shrubbery of the habitat to the techno areas, everything really looks good. It's not a graphically stunning game so much as it is very solid graphics with all the right flourishes.
Sound There's plenty of variety in the sound effects, but the real draw is the high quality musical score that lasts. In a game like this where it's easy to play for long stretches, it's great they chose a long, smooth score to avoid needless repeating and distraction.
Fun Meter PA fair challenge, but never frustrating and always logical. There's a great mix of logic puzzles and action puzzles to keep things flowing. And of course there's plenty of adventure and exploration.
Addictivity Mazera will keep you well glued throughout, and it's very easy to pick up as well as save for later thanks to an auto-save system every step of the way. The only problem is the replay might be a little limited once you've finished the trip. The nature of many puzzles makes them worth replaying, but it will vary person to person.
 


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