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Abstraction Games
GENRE: Puzzle
PLAYERS:   1-2
September 15, 2008
 Written by Patrick Mulhern  on October 17, 2008

Reviews: Firing forest spirits via a Gnome-crafted cannon at evil warlocks? Count me in!

Abstraction Games' first WiiWare attempt is no simple Bejeweled or Bust-a-Move knockoff. At first glance, Potpourri's gameplay may seem like a rip-off of those aforementioned classic match three puzzle games, but you wouldn't last past Year 1 if you played that way. The developers over at Abstraction took the genre's staple of a matching title and spun the mechanic on its head by blending the notion of seasons into the title.

Cute-n-cuddly chain reactions. Look how happy the tree is!

Lining up three of the same color in Potpourrii will only make something happen if you get very, very lucky. Potpourrii tasks the player with matching following season to its predecessor. Therefore, to remove Summer blobs, they need to be shot with Fall blobs, Fall with Winter, Winter with Spring to Summer and then the cycle repeats. Doesn't sound to hard right?

Once the player firmly wraps their brain around the seasonal aspect of Potpourrii, the earlier stages become a breeze. Most gamers will push through the earlier years without a struggle in anticipation of the real challenges, Year 10 and beyond.

Back-assward Review?
Yes, we here at Gaming Target realize that one normally start a review with what is known "in the business" as an "introduction", but we are highlighting a point. With Potpourri's gameplay mechanic diverging so much from the accepted norm, it is ludicrous that players be thrown into the mix from the get go, but that is exactly what happens.

Players are thrust from the title menu into the cute and colorful world of Potpourrii just as an evil Warlock casts evil spirits over the Gnome forest. After the short cutscene of the Gnomes setting up for the epic struggle of good versus evil, the game begins, and you have no idea what to do. In the old days this would be where you reach for the user's manual after walking uphill, in a snow storm only to struggle with dust getting in your cartridge. Today, kids are spoiled, with this being the age of the fast-moving Internet and digital distribution. The catch is that with no boxed copy, there is no manual.

Little Help
Allow me to act as the user manual for a minute. The title does - very subtly - tell you what you should be aiming for. Once you load up your cannon with a spirit, the targets you should be aiming for will light up with an aura around them in a particular color. That color happens to be the color you have loaded, giving the player two visual queues as to where to fire. Of course, should that Winter blob miss the Fall blob, do not think that you can just plunk another Fall next to the Winter type. The blobs don't chain in any order, you must link the Winter to Fall and not Fall to Winter. Hence, what you shot, has to come after, seasonally, what is already in play.

The orange aura is one of your visual queues.

Now you have some idea of how to play. In actuality if Abstraction had created more intuitive spirits, a full-blown tutorial wouldn't be necessary. The spirits, or blobs as we refer to them due to their non-descriptive nature, are near impossible to associate with seasons, adding to the challenge, albeit unintentionally. To be honest, after playing the game for hours upon hours for this review, I still have no idea which blob is which season. Instead, I have been managing to free my tree by figuring out the cycle based on the tips above.

Bottom Line
Abstraction's first published game is definitely there in terms of gameplay. If one can forgive AG for the lack of a tutorial and poor choice in spirit avatars (they are based in the Netherlands so perhaps the images are more intuitive over there?) then the seasonal gameplay is a nice spin. The puzzle genre is always in need of a fresh twist and while Potpourrii plays well, one can not help but think that the initial learning curve will harm the game's sales in its target demographic, the casual market.

It is unfortunate because the title has some solid legs for a puzzle game. Thanks to the common puzzle mechanic of chaining matches for bonus points score competitions between players or oneself can remain alive and well. The more hardcore or dedicated puzzle players should remain challenged by the later stages of Potpourrii. Allowing the 800 Wii Points to be well spent.

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