Last week's release of Koozac followed up the critically acclaimed Skulls of the Shogun on Xbox, and started to bring back some momentum to the release schedule of Xbox titles on Windows Phone. Unfortunately, the game itself is a bit of a damp squib.
Version Reviewed: 188.8.131.52
Koozac is another falling block game, and as usual you are given specific conditions to meet which will remove some of the blocks. In this game the blocks have a a number on them, and if a newly created vertical column adds up to the target (which changes each time a new block falls), then those elements disappear, and the game continues. Otherwise you just clog up the playing area, hoping that a falling block and the target number will match up on a subsequent turn.
To help plan (and to be honest there's not much you can plan) you can see the current target number and the following two numbers, as well as the next three blocks that will fall from the top of the screen.
Controls are actually one of the delightful parts of the game. Because blocks fall in regular columns, you can choose to slide the blocks over to where you want them to fall, or you can simply tap anywhere in the column, which is much easier and faster. A quick swipe down will drop the block to the bottom of the screen as quickly as possible. Be careful though, this downward swipe can be quite sensitive.
With three game modes, Koozac shakes up the goals you need to achieve. They've made the correct design decision to have the primary game as a level based. Each 'puzzle' level starts with a number of silver blocks already on the game board, and the goal is to clear these blocks away to finish the level (not clear the level to empty, just clear it of silver blocks). It's inventive, and gives Koozac the ability to be played in short challenging bursts - which is vital for a mobile title.
It's tough to have the levels increase in difficulty, beyond throwing more blocks into the initial screen and some configuring of the incoming numbers and target (which is done), but Koozac does the best it can within a rather limiting game concept.
The other modes are just as traditional. Blitz mode offers you the regular game but you will only be able to play for sixty seconds. This is a race to get as high a score as possible in the time available. Endless mode is pretty self explanatory, but it also has the misfortune of showing up the flaw in the design of Koozac. With so many numbers going around, from those falling down the screen to the target numbers scrolling past, very little changes in Koozac. Unlike Tetris, there's never a feeling of being able to plan ahead and be strategic, Koozac is all about reacting to the next three numbers, and nothing else.
You can build a game around fast reactions and a pinch of strategy - there are countless twitchy arcade puzzlers out there that prove this - Unfortunately, Koozac is missing one vital ingredient that would make it into one of those great games. There's nothing that makes me want to pick up and play the game, and when I do start playing the game, I don't feel the need to keep playing or try and do better. Without a touch of addictiveness, the cute graphics, the colourful blocks, the accurate controls barely tip the see-saw.
As a demonstration of how to program a gaming title, there's not a lot to fault Koozac. But in terms of being an actual game, err... no. If you're looking to disguise arithmetic as a game in the Kids Corner, then there might be some appeal, but I'm not feeling it at all.
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at