I’ve spent the past week or so playing Murphid, the debut title from Vancouver-based Decapod Studios. Murphid’s game play is, to an extent, a mix of the Tetris and Collapse 3 styled games. It is also quietly addictive. Released on the XBox Live Marketplace on May 13th, Murphid is priced at a very reasonable 240 MS Points. In my opinion, it’s worth the price – plus there is a free demo available, so you can try Murphid before putting your points on the line.
Murphid has a very short learning curve and does offer on-screen tutorial hints for the first few minutes of play – this is the game’s sneaky way of drawing you into its clutches. Don’t get me wrong, I totally enjoy playing Murphid, and I think Decapod did a fantastic job with its development. I particularly like that there is no annoying music, just the game’s sound effects for audio. I can’t count the number of arcade-styled games in which I turn the music completely off because it grates on my nerves. Not so with Murphid. The sound effects fit pleasantly into the game play, and even losing sounds okay. This is nice when playing at the end of the day, winding down and trying to enter some semblance of relaxation mode. Jarring arcade music just doesn’t seem to help with that.
The UI for Murphid is bright and colourful, and there are really only two things that I would like to see added – a time counter for Survival Mode and for Microsoft to enable achievements for indie titles. Survivor Mode does tell you how many lines you’ve survived, but in my opinion, a timer would be better. Murphid also rewards players with the following eight awards:
Me Not Noob – Break 600 marbles
Take The Red Pill – Complete the 1st stage in Campaign Mode
Anabolicious – Earn 300 power ups
Another Brick Off The Wall – Break 1000 blocker marbles
Serious Pam – Survive 30 minutes in Arcade Mode
Captain Darwin – Survive 60 minutes in Survival Mode
New Way To Say Hooray – Break 100 000 marbles
Friends Call Me Puffy – Earn 99 lives in Campaign Mode
In true “level up” fashion, each award has a progress line which shows you how close you are to winning it, and the awards fly out from the right whenever you hit a milestone. There is also a High Score board and there appears to be some very interesting characters who have been playing Murphid. I do believe that I have now taken over every spot on the board – at least on my screen.
Murphid’s game play differs from all of the others in that you are unable to rotate your game pieces. You can switch over to the next piece if it is more advantageous to your strategy, but there’s no rotating, and you cannot “slide” your pieces to the left or right, either. Unless you’re in Arcade Mode. Then you can “slide” – but only if you’re quick. Campaign and Survival Mode do not allow “sliding” but they do offer shadowy arrow tracks to help you place your pieces. To add to challenge, some of the marbles are “stapled” to each other, which means you must eliminate one marble to free the other. If you plan your strategy well, this can often work out quite well for you and result in some very large matches and resulting chains.
Campaign Mode has 12 stages, with each stage divided into 6 levels. The game saves automatically as each Campaign stage is cleared, with difficulty ramping up the further you get into the game. Difficulty comes with shortened room for clearance, a slightly faster moving wall of marbles, and the addition of more colours to clear. The only time I had any difficulty with the additional colours was in the closeness of hue for the two variations of red.
Arcade Mode offers endless play – unless you fail to clear the marbles – again, with increasing difficulty the longer you play. Survival Mode is just what it sounds like – it starts off challenging and gets harder the longer you survive. For the curious, no, I have not won the Captain Darwin award yet. But I will.
There are several power ups to assist you with your game play. These randomly generated power ups include the standard row (fireball) or column-clearing (lightning bolt) bombs, as well as the non-discriminatory marble-blasting WMD (weapon of marble destruction) bomb. Another useful power up is the Chainsaw, which will clear a few marbles out of a column. This comes in handy for getting rid of overhanging marbles or X-blockers. Another power up will clear all of the X-blocker marbles, while the paint drop power up will convert several marbles, including the X-blockers, to match the colour of the paint drop. If you place this power up right, you can convert a very large number of marbles to one colour, allowing for an easy and large area clearing. Another power up will clear all marbles of one colour from the screen, which can also lead to some very nicely chain matches, and the multi-coloured Joker power up will complete a matched set for you, getting rid of more pesky marbles.
Rounding out your power arsenal is the coveted power medallion. Interspersed throughout various Campaign Mode levels, these medallions come in a variety of colours. Match its colour to capture the medallion, which then be iheld for you on the left side of the screen. These medallions come in very handy as they will clear half the screen for you should the marble wall advance past your defenses to the top of the screen. Players are also rewarded with bonus points for combo matches. Your current bonus multiplier is always displayed to the right of your screen.
According to Decapod’s dev blog, the studio is working on Murphid’s first update which will be available in a few weeks. One thing that I hope they do not change is the non-rotation of marbles. Some may see this as a fault, but I do not. I believe that the non-rotation factor makes the player (namely, me) pay more attention and come up with plans which I must deploy in rapid succession in order to stop the advancement of the Coloured Marble Liberation Army. Grab the demo, buy the game – either way, I recommend giving Murphid a go. I rate this title at 5/5 on the scale of puzzle games I will play over…and over…and over…