It's always the simple-looking games that end up taking most of your time. We spend some time with one of them - this one thanks to Nintendo.
In the next few months the Nintendo DS is going to host some fun brainteasers, chief among them Polarium, a deceptively easy game that requires some serious stylus skills. I had a chance to go one on one with it recently, and it's safe to say I got my butt kicked.
Polarium (already released in Japan as Chokkan Hitofude) is a game where you must flip tiles to make them white or black. In the main game, white tiles fall from the top screen to the bottom one. Using the touch screen you have to drag the stylus over white tiles to turn them black, as doing this allows the plummeting tiles to fall without incident. It's a deceptively simple concept that becomes overwhelming in a hurry. Like most falling block games, if you run out of room it's game over.
When I first started out I was getting seriously owned, but after some experimentation I discovered that the best way to clear tiles is to drag the stylus over a whole bunch without lifting it, because if you just tap individual ones you'll be smothered in a hurry.
The same goes for Puzzle Mode, where you must turn all of the black tiles white by tracing them without lifting the stylus. When you think about it it's actually very much like those contemporary math problems where you have to draw a route around a neighborhood without crossing lines.
Polarium has about 100 of these individual puzzles, and they're a nice diversion to the main game. Lastly, there's an Edit Mode where you can create your own puzzles and challenge others to solve them.
In addition to the single player experience the game also has a multiplayer mode. You can wirelessly battle a friend in a frantic race to see who can clear the most tiles, and supposedly you can actually screw with one another's gameplay screens, so you're able to reverse the others' tiles as well as make use of power ups (designated by tiles with question marks on them).
While I was happy that I had a chance to play Polarium, the environment I was in was too loud to hear its music, an electronica mix that's supposedly pretty impressive. However, great soundtrack or no it's the gameplay that truly matters, and I'm happy to report that Polarium is a highly addictive puzzle game that shines on the Nintendo DS. Not only is it based on a neat concept, but it also makes good use of the system's abilities. Showcase your drawing skills and groove to the beat when it releases April 18.