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Like its ocean-styled sister game, Zenses: Rainforest mines an uncommon vein of videogaming: Relaxation. Basically, while most games – even puzzle games – are all about frying your nerves with an ever-increasing pace, pyrotechnic special effects, and an exhausting array of more and more pumped up opponents, Zenses would rather help you chill out and calm down.
Thus, the six puzzle games on offer here offer an almost – sorry, no pun intended – zen-like simplicity, and the whole thing is laid out more like a relaxation spa than the usual cosmic plane or battlefield. The backgrounds are all palm trees and waterfalls, and the music is soft, sparse and new age-y, full of leisurely keyboards, flutes, and ambient sounds like birds and water droplets. Even the puzzles get into the act, (mostly) discarding the usual colored squares or gems in favor of pastel rings, flowers, and stones.
Treasure Spin hands you a grid with a few stone blocks and some flowers scattered around inside. You have to rotate the grid, getting all the flowers to tumble around until they touch one another. In Stack Jack, colored rings of different sizes drift slowly downscreen and your job is to match them. Twist n Turn places differently colored gems on large stone rings that nest inside one another. You have a limited number of moves to either swap gems or rotate rings until your set matches the set on the top screen.
Flower Board is one of the more subtle games. It’s like scrabble – if scrabble used flowers instead of letter and told you what words to make. There’s a stone checkerboard and a few flowers on it, and you need to place additional flowers to create the combinations suggested. Then comes Sapphire Wheel, in which you place colored gems of different shapes on a wheel to create the larger shapes requested.
Rounding out the package is Solitaire, in which you’re given a set number of turns to move a stone from one floating square to another, leapfrogging every other stone on the grid in the process.
As you can probably tell, all of the games are simple in concept – but that’s more a comment on the game’s style than a complaint. And while each game is remarkably easy to play when it begins, and takes its time in ramping up the difficulty, there are sliders that enable you to raise the level of challenge right away.
It’s all pulled off better than you’d guess, and strikes a definite atmosphere – whether that atmosphere is right for you or not is another question. This is an experience so subdued, it’s almost a lullaby. But if you’re into that vibe and want something legitimately fresh, see how your senses react to Zenses: Rainforest.
Dec 31, 2008
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