Published on February 18th, 2015 | by Lee Davies
Format reviewed: 3DS eShop
Other formats available: exclusive
Hazumi is a game of puzzle solving utilizing the power of a coloured perpetually vertically bouncing ball. Your goal in each level is to destroy all the coloured crystal blocks, but you only have the ability to remove a block if it matches the colour of your ball at that time. This simple puzzle mechanic makes for a more thoughtful approach to the tried and tested theory of Breakout. Add in later stage hazards, traps and labyrinths, 100 levels, and even a level editor, and this package at a reasonably cheap price looks like an attractive eShop puzzler. Playing a lot like Kuru Kuru Kururin for the GameBoy Advance, is Hazumi all just surface, or does it have the (coloured) balls to take on the big guns of gaming puzzlers?
Before loading up the game take a quick gander at the top 3D screen to check out the game selection logo art. It surely is one of the best on the 3DS with swirling blocks floating around a Tetris-style central structure. I was recently thinking that Nintendo’s own efforts are sedentary in comparison, especially the black oval of Luigi‘s Mansion 2, and that Hazumi’s developer EyeCancer’s effort puts them to shame.
The touch screen controls for the Main Menu are easy to navigate. The game does have a serious lack of options on offer, but everything in the Main Menu is crisp and intuitive, even with a lack of written English, everything is presented in pictorial form. The Main ‘puzzling level’ Mode is represented by a large old school PLAY button of the triangular variety, the Options Menu by a spanner, and the Level Editor, you guessed it, by a pencil.
The main crux of the game is to navigate your spherical object by presses of the Left and Right on the D-Pad or the Slide Pad. The ball is perpetually bouncing in a vertical motion. As soon as it touches another surface, obstruction or crystal it bounces off and back on itself in a 180 degrees U-turn. Whilst in movement, left or right, pressing any other face button stops that movement and aligns the ball back onto its vertical trajectory, handy in sticky and tight situations where you need to squeeze your ball through the eye of a needle.
You are awarded stars for successfully completing a level, up to a maximum of 3. As soon as you fire up a level three large yellow stars can be seen represented on the bottom touch screen. As time passes the stars slowly disappear, represented within each star as a sweeping hand countdown timer. The only way to stop your 3 stars from disappearing completely is to hit crystals of the same corresponding colour as your ball. By doing so it adds ‘time’ to your stars and fills in those missing parts. Take too long bouncing around and you might end up with little or no stars for your crystal smashing efforts. The trick is to try and hit all the coloured crystals on a level as quickly as possible whilst keeping up a multiplier bonus speed run. Speed and continuity are the keys to high star success, and you‘ll need that to unlock further levels. Levels are unlocked 4 at a time, hidden away behind 10 stars of incremental increases for each unlock. So, out of a possible 12 stars for each set of 4, you need 10 stars for the next unlock. Easily done at the earlier levels, but by about level 50 things get far more progressively challenging, and frustrating.
Changing the colour of your ball becomes integral to the puzzling in Hazumi very early on in the game. By hitting a special coloured tile your own bouncing spheroid is changed into that colour and can then destroy crystals of that and only that colour. On later levels obstacles in the form of circular saws, moveable blocks that can be pushed or pulled, teleportation tiles, and many other puzzle staples, shake things up to frustratingly hair pulling levels, but the game always feels fair due its simplicity of movement. You know that any mistake that has occurred is your own fault and not some dodgy game mechanic implemented by the developers. The levels are short, so any death by saw returns you right to the very beginning of that level. As a bonus, levels can be played in any order with simple touches of the bottom screen navigating you to that level quickly.
The Level Editor is easy to use and set up your own devious designs and it seems like it would be an excellent addition for sharing levels with friends and others through an online interaction. However, there is a distinct lack of the latter which renders the editing idea a little obsolete and pointless. With no option to share your designs with others, or to download other’s creations for your own use, limits this software to only those levels that EyeCancer have created themselves. Online level sharing could have added so much more replay value to Hazumi’s package.
The graphics throughout the entire game are pixel-art based which provide a beautifully crisp feeling, and the ever slight use of 3D depth adds a vibrant feeling to the motion of the ball. The music throughout is simple puzzle fare and nothing revolutionary, but won’t annoy you any further than the frustration of the puzzle mechanic during the harder levels.
Hazumi provides a challenging puzzle game that stays with you through repeat play sessions. One of the most unique and inventive puzzle experiences in recent times can be had if you can learn the methods of rebounding off of objects at the correct angle. Frustration ensues if you can’t stand this style of patience enduring style of puzzle game. If you enjoy action-puzzle games that resemble Tetris, Kuru Kuru Kururin, or Breakout, then this is for you.
Summary: Simply deceptive and easily learnt puzzle mechanic that slowly progresses to frustration levels that only the most dedicated puzzle fan will see through to the end. Highly recommended if you are in the market for a cheap, puzzle game to while away a few hours.