|Genre||Publisher||Release date||Release O.S||Available on|
|Puzzle||Shin’en Multimedia||25/09/2014||Nintendo Wii U||Nintendo Online Store|
Shin’en’s Art of Balance returns once more to Nintendo systems this time making its debut in high definition on the Wii U. The original Art of Balance on Wii was an excellent little puzzler that introduced us to a simple yet very addictive idea of stacking stones. The 3DS port then added plenty more stages and some useful touch screen controls to the mix meaning even returning players would find something new to dig into. Have Shin’en pushed their luck with a third version of the game however or is the developer’s latest worth just one more revisit?
Art of Balance is a simple physics based puzzler that sees you stacking a small handful of assorted stones over small pools of water. Each stage has its own selection of different shaped stones (semi-circles, triangles and so on) that must all be used whilst making sure none tumble into the wet stuff. Once the final block has been added you’ll need to maintain its position for three seconds (it may not seem like much but when you’re watching nervously as your construction starts to favour left or right it really starts to feel it).
The great thing about Art of Balance is that more often than not there is no one real way of completing a stage. You may opt to use a square block for your foundation on one stage for example while another player might choose to use a cross shaped one with both ending in the same results. It’s a game that requires experimentation rather than determination. It’s no use attempting the same method over and over when instead it proves more effective to try an entirely new one.
Arcade mode offers 200 stages distributed across eight worlds (the same stages you’d find in the 3DS version too). While a good majority of the puzzles simply require you to drop stones on a solid base, you’ll also find stages that task you with stacking up to a certain height, on a platform floating in water, within a time limit or even while keeping balance on a see-saw. These modified stages offer some rather interesting challenges and it’s just a shame there aren’t more of them in the game.
As you progress through each world, you’ll slowly be introduced to new blocks that feature unique characteristics. Blocks with a white circle in their centre for example will break after anything has been placed on top of it, while one with a green circle in its centre can take the weight of two shapes before also breaking. Again these add an extra level of difficulty to the proceedings as they often require you to rethink how you stack your bundle of stones.
The game eases you into the swing of things nicely with puzzles starting off fairly simple and becoming more complex with every passing world. It was around halfway through I found my retry count suddenly spiking with more complicated blocks appearing that would even go as far as to reverse gravity. Getting through the Arcade mode is one thing but completing every single challenge will take real skill.
If you’re familiar with the 3DS version of the game then sadly you may find yourself disappointing with the fact there’s no new puzzles to be found here. It seems a real shame the developer’s didn’t include a few new worlds as an added bonus for those who’ve stuck with the series since it’s Wii days.
While Art of Balance doesn’t really offer much in the way of new stages it does sport a couple extra options. A new addition is Tower Tumble, a mode that sees up to five players taking turns to drop a stone onto the playing field with the loser being the one who topples the entire thing. It’s a simple yet surprisingly fun tweak on the formula and one that is certainly more fun the more people that join in.
Online also makes its debut allowing you and up to four others to team up and compete with friends or strangers around the world. This is essentially the same split screen mode that featured in the Wii version but with the added bonus of allowing five players on each system. Of course this can also be played locally as well.
Endurance mode makes its return now with the added bonus of online leaderboards. Here you’ll find yourself playing through stages one by one being awarded points based on your performance. Whereas I found myself ignoring this option in the 3DS version thanks to a lack of interaction with other players, being able to compare scores online gave it that addictive feeling the handheld was sorely missing.
The game has a nice crisp look to it with some excellent lighting effects in play too. Locations themselves appear stylish and almost calming in a way with flowers, bowls of fruit, stones and hanging ornaments littering the backgrounds. Windows with the night’s moonlight seeping through are particularly impressive to witness. The same goes for the music which features a chilled out soundtrack perfectly suited to the style the game has.
Art of Balance is a great little physics based puzzler with plenty of content for newcomers to enjoy. Players familiar with Shin’en’s previous versions of the game however will find their experience slightly dampened due to a lack real surprises or meaningful content outside a couple new modes. A stable if slightly wobbly effort.
- Stacking stones is still good fun
- Game looks great in HD
- Relaxing pace
- Tower Tumble is a great addition
- No new stages
- Online feels undercooked
- This is the third time we’ve played this game now!