I’m a sucker for a good puzzle game. After all, I grew up on games such as Tetris and Dr. Mario on the NES. However, those kinds of puzzle games typically had something in common: the goal was to match things up or, in the case of Tetris, complete a line of blocks. Dr. Mario had you matching capsules to same-colored viruses, Tetris 2 was about the same formula as Dr. Mario, and even Yoshi’s Cookie had you matching lines of cookies to clear them out (yeah, I’m going obscure here). I never had the chance to play the series of puzzle games called “The Incredible Machine”, where you have to create a series of Rube Goldberg devices to accomplish a simple task, such as getting a ball into a crate or turning on a fan. That is, until now. With that said, let’s take a look at I Heart Geeks on the DS…yes, the game is really called I Heart Geeks, only with a heart instead of the word heart, so it’s more like I <3 Geeks I guess.
There’s not much depth to the story, and that I like. It is a puzzle game after all, so an in depth story isn’t needed. What little there is though is a typical life of a geeky student that you read in books or see on TV. You’re a geek, bullies are chasing after you, you hide from them, meet a few more geeky friends, and plot contraptions to get back at them. This is slowly starting to sound like an after school special. Basically, there are over 100 puzzles to complete, each based on building a Rube Goldberg-type device to do something menial like put a ball into a crate or pop a balloon, and trust me, I can think of a lot of ways to pop a balloon that doesn’t involve a steam machine, a candle, a laser, and a pair of scissors…actually, strike that last one.
There are several sets of puzzles, with a set for each of your geek friends (Milton, Theodore, Gilbert, and Eugene). Each set of puzzles typically a couple tutorials to get you acquainted with an aspect of the game, like the steam machines in Theodore’s puzzles, followed by several other puzzles, which typically require getting a ball into a box or popping a balloon…okay, now I’m just repeating myself. To build these contraptions, you have to select the parts you wish to place on the bottom screen (the main “playfield” is on the top screen), hit a button to swap the two screens, then place the item where you want it. The items include steam machines, gears, ropes, cables, planks, candles, magnets…you know, the usual stuff you find lying around a school. Once you have all the items placed, hit the red button to re-swap the screens (so the “playfield” is on top again), and hit the START button to begin the contraption. If it works, you move onto the next puzzle. If not, you can move the parts around and try something else.
The fact that you’re doing this for over 100 puzzles seems redundant, but that’s really all there is to it, that is until the boss battles. Yes, a puzzle game based on Rube Goldberg contraptions has boss battles. Well, you are running from bullies and jocks after all. The boss battles are just building contraptions, but under a time limit, which puts a bit more emphasis on the speed at which you successfully complete the contraption. Yes, it’s the same thing you’ve been doing, and if this was a real life scenario you’d likely be pounded into a pulp before the contraption is completed, but it’s still interesting to say the least.
Being a game based around building Rube Goldberg machines, there’s not much to really review, but the game does have its flaws, and I can think of three right off the get go. The first of which should be obvious by reading this review: you’re pretty much doing the same thing over and over and over again. While each puzzle is just building contraptions, you do get different parts and pieces for different puzzles. For instance, the first set of puzzles (Milton’s) contains a lot of puzzles dealing with gears and conveyor belts, while the next set (Theodore’s) contain a lot of steam machines (I mean seriously, do schools just have these lying around now for students to use as they see fit?). Outside of that, you’re basically doing the same thing for over a hundred puzzles, and it can get repetitive fast. Not only that, for some reason, on each puzzle you can only “carry” five parts at a time. So what if your puzzle has more than five parts? Well, you select the ones you need at first, swap screens, place them where you want them (you place the parts in the same order you selected them), swap back, and select more pieces. I thought they were building these contraptions in the same area where the pieces are. Why can’t you select more than five parts at a time. It just seems like needless swapping back and forth.
The game also contains a help system, but this can be both helpful and a hindrance. There were several times where I’ve been stuck on a puzzle and using the help system actually did help me. To use it, select a single piece on the bottom screen and hit the help icon in the upper-right. The game will then show you where you should put it up top. Keep in mind though that using help in any way will result in you not getting a score for the puzzle. Yes, you get scored via time it takes to complete a puzzle, but I pretty much ignored that as I was too focused on just finishing the puzzles. Anyway, the help system has two major flaws. First off, when the game shows you on the top screen where you should put the piece you selected, that goes away as soon as you release the help icon, meaning the indicator isn’t there when you swap screens. The other flaw, which is even more problematic than the first, is that the help system isn’t always right. Let me reiterate that last sentence. The “help system” ISN’T ALWAYS RIGHT! Case and point, I’ve put in a combined hour and a half on one puzzle (part of that while waiting on a flight, so I didn’t have anything else to do), putting each part EXACTLY where the help system showed me to put it, and the contraption STILL doesn’t properly work. The fact that you can’t skip puzzles, and this puzzle is only a quarter of the way in, that’s not good, as I can see people getting frustrated and just downright giving up altogether. It really does take the fun out of the game.
Overall, I Heart Geeks isn’t a bad game, but it leaves a bit to be desired. I didn’t mention the multiplayer because from what I’ve read, all it is, is just two players racing to complete one of the puzzles in the main game, so if you’ve completed them all, you’ll have a good idea on how to complete whatever the game throws at you. Outside of that, the puzzles can be creative, and the boss fights are interesting, but with a flawed help system and a lot of the puzzles being similar to others in their respective sets of puzzles, it gets old and frustrating fast at times. For a $30 game, it leaves a lot to be desired. If the game included better multiplayer, a better help system (I still use that term loosely in this game), and maybe a puzzle creator, it might be more worth it, but for what it is, I wouldn’t put $30 into the game.