iPad Game Review: Master of Alchemy HD Reviewed by Tom Slayton
Master of Alchemy HD (MoA HD) is a high-quality physics puzzler that tasks you with capturing a specific element (or elements). This is not as straightforward as it sounds (obviously). In order to achieve this goal, you must use a variety of lab equipment to convert the elements back and forth between their various states, and direct them toward their ultimate goals.
Gameplay involves placing the correct alchemical (is that even a word?) devices in the correct places. Many of these devices will have familiar names (crucibles, coils, etc), however don?t expect them to look familiar to you. In fact, you should plan on fumbling around the first few tutorial levels (at least), extravagantly wasting elements and creating a general shambles of your workspace as you try to figure out exactly which of these odd looking apparatus will make the little glowing bits do what you want them to do.
Don?t be dismayed, however, when the unfriendly warnings flash across the screen advising you that you have failed to perfectly complete a level. The 60 levels of this game are designed around the idea of you replaying them until you are satisfied with your performance. This frantic, timed aspect is the only part of the game I dislike. However, I am aware that this is simply a matter of taste, and that the game would be a lot less challenging without the relentless, incessant, inexorable, ruthless timer smugly ticking away in the corner. If you find yourself a bit like me in this department, keep in mind that you can pause the game at any time and study the screen. This little feature goes a long way toward lowering my artificially elevated blood pressure every time I begin a new level and see some precious element floating away into the firmament.
Parallels will invariably be drawn between this game and Enigmo/Enigmo II. Rest assured, these games, while sharing similarities, have significantly different gameplay, with MoA HD playing more like the steampunk lovechild of Enigmo and Incredible Machines.
Master of Alchemy HD is also integrated with Crystal so you can post scores, send challenges, etc to your heart?s content.
The graphics in MoA HD are absolutely beautiful. The combination of high resolution hand-drawn sprites and vivid particle effects make this one of the most graphically impressive iPad titles to date. Everything is smoothly animated, and the resolution is so high that you can zoom WAAAAY out and still see everything clearly. When I run across somebody who hasn't yet seen an iPad (this is getting rarer, and rarer, by the way), this is one of the two apps I use to showcase it (the other is Theodore Gray's The Elements).
MoA HD has a great little menu soundtrack that really adds to the atmosphere. As for the in-game sound effects, they are spot-on. The crucibles bubble, the coils hiss, and throughout the game, the little timer in the corner is unwinding with a very pleasant clockwork sound. When the designers were applying their final coat of polish to this game, they did NOT skip the sound.
While I may have 5-10 pages of applications (ok, games) at any given time, I reserve my home page for my favorites, and Master of Alchemy HD is what I consider a home page app. It greets me happily, along with my other four favorite games, whenever I turn on my iPad. I don't know how long it will reside there as I'm a fickle beast, but even when it is eventually bumped to page two, I don't expect to ever delete it. Yes, it's that good. The combination of beautiful graphics, mesmerizing sounds, and truly innovative gameplay have combined to form an entirely new element in MoA HD. If you're at all into physics puzzlers, give this one a try; you won't be disappointed. For the iPhone and iPod touch users, there is a version for your iDevice as well.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 5 - Beautiful combination of high-resolution artwork and particle effects with smooth animation throughout. Sound: - 5 - Soothing instrumental menu soundtrack and almost hypnotic in-game sound effects. Controls: - 5 - Classically intuitive iPad touch controls. Manipulating objects in this game is simple and straightforward. Gameplay: - 5 - An excellent spin on the contraption/physics puzzle game. Strategically place objects to manipulate and ultimately collect the elements.
Playing Hints and Tips:
-Don't be afraid to fail your first time through every level. Use the time to watch where the elements emerge and study what devices you have at your disposal.
-Alternatively, if you're a purist, attack each level and try to beat it your first time through. If you can, I tip my lab goggles to you in respect. I dare you.
-If you're stuck on a level, move on! Every time you beat one, three more open so just play through and come back to it later. Or not.