By Eric Pankoke on Tue, 07/28/2009
What do you get when you cross penguins with snow caps, zany physics, and 80 levels that each end with a bull’s eye? Why, you get Arctic Shuffle from Zinc Roe design. This puzzle game is fun, frustrating and rewarding all rolled up in one. The penguins are pretty cute, too!
There’s no story to Arctic Shuffle. You have no overriding goal. You simply must solve the 80 levels in order to beat the game. You start out each level with 5 penguins, and your objective is to get one penguin from the starting circle to the bull’s eye at the other end of the level. If you can keep a penguin on the lit bull’s eye long enough, you win the level. If the penguin slides to the point where the bull’s eye is no longer lit, you try another penguin, or if you’re out of penguins you lose and start the level over again. Trust me when I say that you can think you’ve won a level just to have a penguin slide barely enough so that the bull’s eye is no longer lit. That’s one of the frustrations I referred to in the opening paragraph, though it’s all simply part of the game.
To control the penguin you place your finger in the circle where the penguin starts and drag away from the penguin. A bar shows you the relative speed and angle the penguin will travel. The longer the bar, the greater the penguin’s speed will be. I say relative because there are a lot of things that will throw your penguin off course. You didn’t think they were going to make this easy for you, did you? Once you are comfortable with the proposed trajectory, release your finger and watch your penguin fly towards the goal. If you’re lucky, one of the penguins will actually make it.
So let’s talk about all the things that stand between you and your goal. First there are unnatural elements like saw blades and accelerator pads. As you can imagine, saw blades are about as good for your health as pools of water. Plus, they tend to leave a bit of a stain on the snow when you run into them. Accelerator pads will temporarily speed up your sliding, but no matter what direction you hit these pads from, they will only send you off in one predefined direction. Fortunately there are red arrows painted on the pad to tell you which direction you’ll be headed when you launch. My favorite device, however, is the cloning machine. Sure it destroys the penguin that goes in, but you get three more in return. Plus, it just looks kind of cool.
Next you have the “natural” elements, like trees and pools of water. You can bounce off of the trees – and as you’ll find out throughout the game, there are a lot of things you can bounce off of. Pools, however, mark the end of the road should you fall in one. Finally, many levels are filled with colorful creatures of all variety. Some kill you just as swiftly as a saw blade, and others are quite bouncy. Some will just slow or stop your progress. You’ll discover all the things I’ve talked about and more through 80 levels of madcap fun. You’ll beat some levels on the first or second try, and others will have you about ready to toss your device before you discover the secret to success. Whatever the case, you’ll let out a little sigh of relief every time you see the bull’s stay lit and are rewarded with the graphic of your little penguins dancing for joy.
The graphics are not phenomenal, but they get the job done. Everything has a distinct look to it and it all seems to blend well into one happy, slip sliding world. The cut scenes are cute, but unfortunately there’s only one for victory and one for defeat. A little variety here would have been nice. The sound effects work, but again are nothing extraordinary. Some of the effects like the penguin revving to gain momentum or splashing into the pool are pretty decent, while others are just kind of there. The music is good, but there’s only one track, which does get pretty repetitive after so many levels.
If you’re looking for flashy visuals or a beat to dance to, Arctic Shuffle probably isn’t your game. However, if you’re looking for an off the wall physics game starting cute penguins in snow caps, you’ve come to the right spot. Or, if you just want a challenging puzzle game with lots of levels, Arctic Shuffle fits the bill as well. It seems like this game kind of slid under the radar, but don’t let it slip past yours.