Keeping up their very high standard, the programmers at Arctica have produced something quite different to their normal (excellent) arcade fare. This one combines Sokoban with Labyrinth, with a touch of Doom-style 3D. Sprinkle in ice monsters and flighty rabbits, plus some mind mangling variations and you've got yourself a 3D treat for puzzle fans.
Here's the set-up. You're inside the eponymous crystal mountain, where you encounter a maze of passages and have to find your way to the exit. Initially the exit is blocked with ice bars, but after you've collected all the crystals on each level the bars disappear and you can escape. Well, escape that level anyway, and on to the next!
Making your way clear is an always available 'Map', showing the maze layout, crystals, and so on:
All trivially easy so far, right? Well, not quite. You see the orange furball in the map above? That's an ice monster and it's after you, able to move at the same pace as you (though the game is turn-by-turn, so you can take thinking time - the monster will only move when you do, etc. - like I say, this is, first and foremost, a puzzle title).
Moving your character/viewpoint is done either on the viewport itself or on the side of screen virtual joystick, with Crystal Mountain helpfully reminding you of the control mapping when you start it up each time:
It's not entirely clear what 'Strafe' means in this context - I guess it's possible that there's some firing action later on in the game (I only got a dozen levels into the supplied 42 - this is not an easy title!), but the joystick idea works well in practice. The 'Wait' possibility is for you to pass a turn and let a monster advance - perhaps you're luring it into a trap?
So you've got the idea? Mazes, crystals and monsters? Nope. That's only a fraction of Crystal Mountain, in terms of gameplay and subtleties. The next major ingredient is giant rabbits (I kid you not), which are very flighty and run away whenever they see you - yet your job is to corral them into a corner and then take them with you out of each level, i.e. 'save' them from the monsters.
So we've got the ice monsters chasing you and chasing the rabbits, the latter running away from both and you trying to do your ecological best to save the rabbits while staying alive yourself.
Now add in different kinds of monsters, with different personalities. Laid back, aggressive, dizzy, hot-tempered, each of which approaches with different strategies and speed. Add in piles of boulders to slow monsters down, roof-mounted icicles for them to bang their head on (they lie down, stunned, stupid things....), add in ever more complex mazes to remember and navigate, add in giant ice cubes to push around to block the path of monsters and/or rabbits, Sokoban-style, and you've got the makings of an atmospheric puzzle classic.
And all of this is just from the first dozen levels, I'm sure there's plenty more to find out once you get five or ten hours into the game. Arctica cleverly introduces each new gameplay or strategic element one at a time, with on-screen tips and explanations, so you're always kept just as informed as you need to be.
With no real time element, Crystal Mountain has a very different feel to other Arctica games like Speedfest, but it's just as polished. There's a digital soundtrack, a comprehensive menu and help structure, you can re-play any particular level (that you've previously cleared) at any time, and there's clearly dozens of hours of puzzle gameplay on offer.
And like other titles in the series, there's both a commercial and free (ad-laden, full-page ads appear between each level and have a three second delay built-in) version, so simply pick the one you want. I've included links to both at the top of this review.
Arctica are very definitely now one of my favourite Symbian game developers and this is another title I can wholeheartedly recommend.
Steve Litchfield, AAS, 14 Feb 2012