None of you would have any reason to know this, but I actually am trained as a biochemist with quite a bit of experience in microbial genetics and cell biology. Fascinating, I know, but I wanted to tell you that in order to explain why I think that Tricone Lab (currently under development) is so brilliant. Not that you need any science knowledge to enjoy the game, but seeing how an ingenious and mind-bending puzzle game can built upon biological principles is really intriguing. And don’t let the thought of a biology-based game dissuade you in any way because it is a really fun game regardless.
Tricone Lab is being developed by Partickhill Games Limited, which is really just the one-man show of Josh Singer. Currently Tricone Lab is undergoing alpha testing with beta testing and early access both on the horizon. Keep an eye out on our site because we will be giving away some beta keys for Tricone Lab in the very near future.
Anyway, Josh was kind enough to give me a crack at the Tricone Lab alpha, and I have spent the past few days poking around the game and checking it out. At first glance the game is simple in nature and design, but rest assured that it gets really complex as you progress through to levels. Having said that, the game does a great job in introducing the gameplay mechanics and different elements that you will need to understand and manipulate in order to solve the puzzles. Even with some of the in-game descriptions missing I was still able to easily figure out what was going on. Easily figuring out the solutions to some of the levels was another thing entirely.
Each level presents you with a cell or cells in which a number of the different gameplay elements are trapped. The goal is simple: connect each of the titular Tricone Catalysts with a red, green, and blue resource cone in order to synthesize a complete Tricone. Sounds easy? Yeah. Actually easy? Almost never. It turns out that the path to accessing to the resources is usually not straight forward or obvious.
The problem is that you have a limited number of tools available to you in order to get past the cell membranes. This limited set of tools means that the membranes must be broken or bypassed in a particular order, and therein lies the puzzle for each level. It gets worse. In many cases you must first create the tools, and doing that also requires connecting to the correct resources, which themselves might be trapped behind membranes. I am sure you can see where this is going.
To make things even more complex, the number of tools and elements that you must manipulate increases as you progress. First comes the Breaker, allowing you to break the membrane of your choice. Can’t break a membrane? Well perhaps use the Transporter to move something across. Replicators allow you to duplicate resources, and Constructors allow you to trap elements. Why would you want to trap elements? Oh, because some of them can be detrimental if left unchecked, like the annoying Anti-catalyst that loves to grab and hold resources before you do. You even need to worry about balancing out positive and negative charges within compartments before being able to manipulate elements. And there are some elements, like the Exploders, that I haven’t even seen in action yet.
If this sounds like it could get really messy in a hurry then congratulations to you because you are correct. It is tough enough when you have just a couple different elements to worry about, but when you have a bunch of them together it can get mind blowing. Having me simply say this doesn’t do the game justice and so I whipped up a short montage of some of the earlier levels in the game, which you can watch below. I am only showing you the correct solutions for these maps, but rest assured that in many of those cases it took me a number of attempts to figure them out. And I am not even showing you some of the more complex levels because I don’t want to spoil them, and many of them I haven’t even yet managed the mental fortitude required to unlock them.
One thing I really appreciate about the game is that there isn’t a timer. This allows you to relax and tackle each level at your own pace. There is also a very handy Undo function that will allow you to back up when (not if) you throttle down the wrong path. Trust me when I say that you will learn to love the Undo button.
Finally, and this is something that is a really great addition to the game, I need to mention the map editor. Tricone Lab includes a very functional and very easy to use level editor that will allow players to create their own puzzles and share them online. Tricone Lab includes 100 official levels, which is already a huge number to work through, but the addition of a map editor will allow the challenge to continue for those that want it. I didn’t really play around with it too much because I am still hammering through the main levels, but it is a really smart move on the part of Josh to include it.
So there you have it. Tricone Lab is a wonderful and yet oh-so-devious puzzle game that will captivate and infuriate puzzle game fans in the best possible way. I love puzzle games that are simple in nature and yet manage to dive into the depths of complexity, and Tricone Lab manages that very nicely. Definitely a game to keep your eye on.
Watch for more information about the upcoming Tricone Lab beta and early access here on Death by Beta, and keep an eye out for us giving away some beta keys in the near future.
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