Ms. Germinator

Ms. Germinator

Written by Jeff Kintner on 9/25/2013 for PS3  
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A mere six months after the original Germinator, Creat Studio's gender-swapped sequel is here, and it's available at home or on the go with cross-platform saving between your PS3 and Vita. Ms. Germinator is in the vein of Bust-A-Move style puzzle games- you must clear a bacteria-covered field by shooting colored germs out of a cannon. Like-colored germs absorb each other and once they get too big they burst, and pop all of the germs around them; but if any of the germs reach the top of the screen, its game over. Ms. Germinator has a few new tricks up its sleeve, including new colors of germs with different powers, new obstacles, a ton of levels, and a challenge mode that delivers new content daily.

The biggest differences between Ms. Germinator and most other bubble shooters is that the objective is to use the colored germs to clear out all of the black germs  from the field, instead of wiping it completely clean, plus it's upside-down. However, the biggest difference is the fluidity of the gameplay- but this isn't necessarily doing the player a favor. Because the germs grow when they absorb each other it causes the germs around them to shift, which can block your shots and cut off your opportunities. The fluidity of the field made it hard to predict exactly how your shot would affect the germs around it. There were a few times where I had to restart a level because a germ grew so much that it shoved the germs around it into a wall that broke the ceiling, and there was no way I could have foreseen that. Also, many of the levels in the Campaign mode had an outline of black germs that don't absorb anything- meaning that instead of having to think of a way around my obstacles, I had to pour out germs until I could break the lining. Don't get me wrong- there's plenty of wall-bouncing, timing your shots, and getting around obstacles involved in each of the game modes- but on a lot of the Campaign levels, it didn't feel so much like I was thinking my way around the problems, so much as I was breaking and entering to get to the end of the level. The levels Puzzle Mode are much more satisfying to complete. Even though they aren't timed like the Campaign levels, you only have so many germs at your disposal. Having to conserve my resources and make my shots count felt like I was accomplishing more than I was in the Campaign, where I was pouring out shots and praying I didn't have to start over. I can understand that the Campaign and Puzzle modes are offering two different flavors of gameplay, but the Endless Mode does a much better job of forcing you to concentrate on how quickly you are working, rather than how efficiently. The Campaign is sort of a middle ground between the Endless Mode and Puzzle Mode, where you have to balance speed and efficiency, but because it didn't utilize either aspect as well as the other two, it fell short.

While some of the additions to Ms. Germinator kept the puzzles challenging and fresh, some of them tended to muddle up the gameplay as well. Take for example, the new colors of germs. Each germ color also has a powered-up version with a special ability- red germs explode, yellow germs pop all of the germs to their left and right, etc. The new colors of germs have useful powers like lowering the playing field to give you more time or turning all the germs around them into power germs. But at first glance, the new sapphire germ looks very similar to the blue germ, and the yellow and orange germs are almost identical in color, design and function (yellow power germs explode horizontally, orange power germs explode vertically), so have fun getting your germs mixed up. Also, I don't think that the new teleporter obstacles belongs in a bubble shooter like Ms. Germinator- since you're shooting from a fixed point, the angles you can hit the teleport from are severely limited, so the chances of your target being a hair too far away on the other end is highly likely.

My biggest turn-off to Ms. Germinator is the aesthetics. The art has about the same quality as a game you'd play through Facebook, like Candy Crush. I have no problem with cartoony visuals, but the whole time I was playing, I had this nagging feeling that I could get the same experience online in a flash game. That, and Ms. Germinator has an annoying habit of popping in during play to drop half-baked puns, and it doesn't help that she sounds like she's deaf. I cringe every time I hear her uvular babbling.

All of my complaining aside, Ms. Germinator does have quite a few things going for it. The level design is excellent, the difficulty progression is paced well with the introduction of new gameplay elements, like reflector plates, and frozen germs that need to be popped twice. For the most part, the different game modes are all distinct from one another and challenging in their own ways. Even though I usually prefer untimed puzzles so I can carefully choose my strategy, like the Puzzle Mode, I enjoyed the Endless Mode- which features a steady march of germs crawling up the screen while you frantically pick away at it. Endless Mode showcases the different abilities of the power germs, so it's good for learning the rules of the game. Speaking of, one of the biggest blessings is the tutorial booklet- instead of requiring you to play through the entire campaign in order to learn how each element works, Ms. Germinator lets you play through just the tutorials, so you can learn all the basics and advanced rules in about ten to fifteen minutes. It makes it easy to jump into whichever mode you prefer. Even though the Campaign wasn't my favorite, the only game mode I would advise against is Duel mode. Duel Mode is set up similarly to games like Puzzle Fighter- but the matches are usually short since the best way to win is to be the first to dump black germs on your opponent, and to keep em coming as fast as possible, rather than getting high-scoring shots.

As someone who grew up on games like Bust-A-Move and Puzzle Fighter, I can appreciate that Ms. Germinator trying to take a step in a different direction, but as a puzzle game it's just a little too plastic for my tastes. But if you were a fan of the original Germinator, then you'll probably love all of the additions and loads of content Ms. Germinator has to offer. Likewise, if you're dying for an excuse to use your Playstation Move, or really want something on your vita that's good for killing time- there are worse things you could spend your $9.99 on.
I can appreciate that Ms. Germinator trying to take a step in a different direction, but as a puzzle game it's just a little too plastic. But with all of the content and cross-platform saving, there are worse things you could spend $9.99 on.

Rating: 7 Average

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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About Author

I've spent an embarrassing percentage of my life planted in front of a screen. I'm pretty sure I know the layout of Planet Zebes better than my own home town, and most of my social life in high school revolved around Halo 2 and Super Smash Brothers. When I wasn't on a console I was playing every ROM I could get my mitts on.

These days I spend most of my time with games made by small studios, because they tend to make what I'm interested in playing. I love developers that experiment with new mechanics, write challenging and immersive narratives, and realize that a game's aesthetics are more than it's graphics. So long story short-you'll see a lot of posts from me about Kickstarter campaigns and Early Access debuts.
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