Sunday, October 2, 2011

Funny, Chrakovsky Isn't On iTunes

On another unrelated whim, I bought Vertigo Games' greenTech+ the other day. There's no long convoluted backstory to go into with regards to this game, aside from I really enjoyed the AcidBomb and Shellblast games and I've played the pre-commerical greenTech, so I can jump into reviewing the game without a long history lesson.

greenTech+Instead, let's talk ecology. Just kidding! Sort of. greenTech+ is a game about global warming and pollution management, though in a definitely (and surprisingly) non-preachy way. Over the course of a level, factories release pollution into the air at regular intervals. Your goal is to guide the pollution to the waiting cleaning centers. How? By controlling a hurricane that sucks the pollution toward itself. Naturally. To make matters worse, the cleaning centers have limited uses, meaning you've got to guide the pollution all around the map. Also, if the pollution hits an area of high air pressure, the pollution disperses into the atmosphere, raising global warming by 10%. If any pollution hits the hurricane itself, it shoots up 20%. If you reach 100%, it's game over.

greenTech+ is an easy game to get the hang of, but very hard to master. Most of the levels can be passed even if only barely (sneaking by with 90%), and each completed level unlocks a new monitor for you to upgrade to (more on the aesthetics later). But, to unlock new levels, you have to achieve a certain number of perfect levels, finishing with 0%. This is way easier said than done, as a split second of lost concentration can tack an unwanted 10% on your score. As you play, you pick up certain strategies like rounding up a ton of pollution into a tiny cluster before making the rounds to the cleaning centers, or speeding up and slowing down the hurricane's attraction speed, but figuring out when to use each is extremely difficult.

Despite being a game that tackles a serious problem (though in a wholly fictional way), greenTech+ carries a very light-hearted tone. It's been trimmed down in this commercial re-release, but in the original greenTech the opening titles gave the impression that the game simulated the daily job of one lonely office worker who would find his favorite classical music station on the radio while booting up his computer to work his magic, Fantasia-style. That quirky attitude toward a life-or-death situation carries over here in perfect form. (One of my favorite examples of this is when you lose a level, destroying the world, then you're asked press X to "accept".) Tie in the fake classical music and the retro graphics on upgradable (though still crappy) monitors, and this game bleeds personality despite its harsh gameplay.

greenTech+ is definitely challenging, but still fun to tackle. If you don't want to dive into the full version of the game, you can always try the original greenTech (the only major difference is free mouse control vs. grid-based keyboard control). Once you fight your way through that, it'll be hard not to give into the allure of the newer version. The greenTech series is frustrating but fun, and makes an excellent diversion for when you don't have the time to get into larger puzzle games.

Oh, and there are also apparently 3-D settings for greenTech+ to play with, but I don't have the glasses and it'd probably give me a headache pretty quickly anyway.

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