Published on March 24th, 2017 | by Graham0
Gizmos: Interstellar Voyage Review
Summary: Probably the definitive nonograms game, and a must-buy for any puzzle fun.
Gizmos: Interstellar Voyage is a nonograms game – that is, a series of grid-based logic puzzles where you’re marking squares as either filled-in or empty, based on number clues around the edge of the grid. They’re very easy to learn and pickup, and on larger stages there’s a very satisfying amount of logic required to slowly piece together the solution, inching your way over the board square by square.
I love ’em, and I’ve sunk endless hours into a Nintendo DS version. But the best version of the game on Big Fish Games I’d found until now, a recent entry in the Fantasy Mosaics series, had left me wanting more. It was too easy, and had little interface issues.
Gizmos, I’m happy to say, nails this genre so nearly perfectly, that I’m not sure I’ll ever need another nonograms game in my life.
Full disclosure: I haven’t actually finished Gizmos yet. I’ve just started world five, of a total of ten, and have been playing for 6.5 hours, the handy in-game timer tells me. This review is based on my time so far with the game, and I’ll update it if my thoughts change at a later point.
Though even if the rest of the game was somehow filled with trivial 5×5 puzzles I’d still recommend it very strongly; I’ve more than got my money’s worth already.
There’s a very loose story sketched in at the start, which is that one of a trio of ugly space-goblins has entered them all into an intergalactic nonograms competition. It hasn’t been brought up since, but it doesn’t matter, we’re here for that sweet puzzlin’ action.
The levels kick off at 10 by 15, which is such a refreshing change from nonogram games that force you through a bunch of unskippable tedious 5×5 and 10×10 puzzles before you can get to the good stuff.
And they only get bigger, with each world ratcheting up the size further. The world I’ve just changed, number 5, has puzzles 20×25 in size, and these can be a decent challenge. At this rate, the puzzles on the final world 10 are going to be larger than in any nonograms game I’ve played before.
I love this.
Gizmos isn’t a game afraid to present you with real brain teasers, with the larger puzzles involving a lot of careful counting and logic.
It’s got a scoring system, with your time being measured as bronze, silver, gold, or “developer” level (love that touch too – this is a game that can tell you that you are better than the developers themselves). These times have been sensibly selected per-puzzle, so there are times when I’ve spent 25 minutes finishing one and still got awarded a gold.
You’ve got some control over the difficulty. You can change between timed and relaxed modes, you can play with multi or single colour puzzles (I found the multiple colours very distracting and toggled this off), and you can set whether squares that are obviously empty should be automatically filled in by the game. E.g. if you complete all the filled-in squares on a row, the game will mark the rest as blanks.
I’ve tried with the auto-fill setting on and off and like it a little better on, as it removes some of the busy-work. It is a touch harder without it though, if you want to ratchet up the difficulty more.
Finally, clues that are definitely solved are marked off, with no option to disable this. One issue I had with Fantasy Mosaics is that it would sometimes mark a clue as done when it looked ambiguous to me – Gizmos happily avoids this, and only marks clues off when they’re very obvious, and when you’ve marked most end-squares of the block as blanks: the perfect solution.
If you’re new to nonograms and that last paragraph was pretty meaningless, then what I want to convey is this – Gizmos nails the interface, perfectly, and never gets in your way or gives you information you shouldn’t have. It gets rid of just the right amount of busywork from nonograms to let you focus on the logic.
Mistakes are flagged, so the game won’t let you play for ages on a board that’s in a bad state. I’m not entirely sure what the penalty for a mistake is, perhaps a time subtraction, but the real negative is the groan it elicits from one of the goblins.
You see, throughout the puzzles, the space-goblins will be yelling happy celebrations of your performance, or groans and commiserations at your mistakes. I know, this sounds awfully annoying, but somehow it’s not. I look forward to those excited shouts of “Magnificent!” as I clear a row, and dread that “Nooo” or “Yikes!” as I misclick. Especially the latter. It makes me be more careful in my clicking, just so I don’t disappoint them.
Presentation-wise the game’s attractive enough. There’s only so pretty you can make a grid full of squares and numbers look, but the spacey backgrounds are nicely drawn.
In a great touch, there’s a couple of puzzle levels on each world where you assemble a jigsaw puzzle of the background you’re be playing on. These are pretty easy but mix up the nonogramming well.
I can’t really think of a single negative thing to say about Gizmos. Oh yes – the music is awful, but it can be turned off. That’s it.
If you’ve any interest in puzzle games at all, then buy Gizmos: Interstellar Voyage. It’s going to last you forever (I’ll be perfectly happy at the end to just start again and try to improve my scores), it’s addictive as anything, and it’s very hard to imagine what a better version of nonograms would look like.