Reviewed: October 24, 2006
Released: September 3, 2006
Just when I was sure that no one could possibly come up with another original puzzle game, along comes Glow Worm. Not that I spend a lot of time thinking about these things; it's just that there are only so many ways to make blocks move around and eventually disappear, and the puzzle genre is one of the industry's oldest and most incestuous. However, though not as original as, say, the first light bulb,
Glow Worm features:
The beauty of Glow Worm is that it doesn't resort to flashy lights or rhythm tricks to wow gamers--it's just a simple puzzle game with new mechanics. Yes, it uses a tiled board and color-coded pieces--some conventions can rarely be escaped--but it handles them in as original of a way as anyone has a right to expect.
The game comes with three different but closely related modes of play, each with a set number of levels. In Classic mode, each game board starts with a few glow worms and fireflies on it, in various different colors. By clicking in any empty space, the player can place another glow worm there, and grouping four or more bugs of the same color will release all of them, clearing the squares beneath them.
As with many puzzle games, players can see the colors of the next three glow worms they will receive. The main difference between Classic and Adventure mode is that in Adventure mode, the pieces you place fall down towards the bottom of the screen, roughly simulating gravity. The game's third mode, Puzzle, is a series of 66 pre-made Classic boards designed to test your wits.
So far, so good, but nothing that hasn't been done before. What makes Glow Worm more interesting than the average Bejeweled clone isn't the glow worms themselves, it's the fireflies. As mentioned above, fireflies can be cleared normally just like glow worms by grouping four or more of either type together by color. However, players will never receive any fireflies to place on the board. Instead, each glow worm has colored dots on it that indicate the color of firefly that it will morph into when it's cleared. In other words, unless you set up your combos just right, clearing glow worms just leaves even more colored pieces behind. Even more interesting, in Adventure mode you can also right-click to switch the dot color with the main color before you place your glow worm.
It's important here to note that usually, the goal of the game isn't to clear every piece from the board--rather, it's to clear the tiles underneath the pieces, which only requires that you clear a glow worm or firefly off of them once. For younger children who might not like having to strategize much, this is a boon (there's also no time limit in one of the modes), and for those of us trying to rack up the highest possible score it adds a needed element of complexity to what would otherwise be a somewhat engaging but generally simple title.
In fact, even with the glow worm to firefly mechanic in place, my biggest complaint is that Glow Worm is still very easy compared to most other puzzle games, thanks to features like the aforementioned lack of a time limit, and the lack of difficulty settings. After playing for a while, it becomes evident that the game's built-in difficulty tops out fairly early and does not ever become significantly challenging in any capacity.
Even with the wildly varying game modes, there's only so much to do before you'll feel as though you've essentially mastered it (Adventure mode takes the longest time to get the hang of, incidentally). For kids, this game is great--it's forgiving and pretty hard to lose outright. For a general audience, it's only a so-so offering, mostly due to the simple fact that it's too easy after a couple days.
Glow Worm has a really adorable aesthetic that somehow manages to avoid being sickeningly sweet or embarrassing. Though the graphics are nothing to crow about quality-wise, they don't need to be to be charming. The overall look of the game is that of a child's picture book about an enchanted forest. There's lots of luminous blue, purple and green in the background. Your mentor, a big friendly-looking glow worm, is moon-dust gray and wears a top hat and a little suit-jacket.
The game has a surplus of twinkly special effects everywhere, and the colors of the game pieces are bright and clear. They even thought to give different "expressions" to the different colors of glow worm. Animations are at a bare minimum, but it's not the type of game to make most people notice the absence.
On one hand, Glow Worm only has one song as far as I can tell. On the other hand, it's a charming, enchanted-sounding little piece. It doesn't get old quickly and it adds to the fairytale mood of the game. The big glow worm fellow who watches over the endeavors of the player often has something nice to say, and his voice work is well done. He speaks with a showman's accent, booming "ah, bravissimo!" and similar phrases with delighted zeal.
Sound effects, like visual effects, are "twinkly." There isn't a lot to the sounds of Glow Worm, but what's there is done well enough.
Of course, there's no greater question for a puzzle game than whether or not it will provide the endless hours (and possibly many years) of entertainment that some of the best are capable of providing. Glow Worm offers three distinct modes of play with at least some variance in difficulty, and plenty of levels to each. As I have said before, the game is mildly challenging, but with only a limited number of levels and a very mild difficulty curve, once you're done you're done.
Unlike Tetris-style randomly generated puzzle games, there is a finite amount of replay value to be had in Glow Worm's somewhat more linear experience. However, at the budget-friendly price the game is offered for ($19.95), the game is nonetheless a very good (if not exactly legendary) value, particularly for parents looking for a totally positive, totally non-violent game for their children that is also actually quite a bit of fun to play.
Glow Worm is a game that actually makes you feel good while playing it. I found myself smiling a bit every time the game complimented me on a particularly good combo, or cheered me on at the completion of a new level. The low challenge level and complete absence of negative reinforcement make this a true family game. Technically unimpressive but well thought-out graphics and some fun little flourishes make it pretty fun to watch, as well as play. And even if the game is less than an epic challenge, at least it's original. In a market saturated with clones and knock-offs that's saying something.