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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Review: Sum Fighter (XBLA Indie Games)


Puzzles games are a dime-a-dozen on any downloadable service nowadays. While many puzzle games are just basic variations or rip-offs of other titles, Sum Fighter actually brings a unique gameplay element to the puzzle game genre; math, and it turns out to be a fun little puzzler that will not only sharpen your puzzle skills, but your basic addition skills as well.

Nerdy kid on the cover... check. This is maths

One part Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine and a dash of Tetris added into the mix, with numbers thrown in for matching elements is a good way to explain how Sum Fighter feels. The puzzle grid flows up instead of down as in Tetris, and each block in the grid contains a number. To help ease how the gameplay mechanics works here, let’s use an example of a grid where all the blocks contain only the numbers 1 in them. If the A button is pressed and held on a block containing the number 1 and the cursor is moved to the next block, the two blocks will merge together and become a 2-block (1+1=2), and if the A button is continued to be held and the cursor moved again it will become a 3-block (1+2=3), etc. To eliminate a 2-block, you’ll have to create a second 2-block touching the other to eliminate the blocks from the grid, and it’ll take three 3-blocks touching to eliminate a single 3-block, etc., and as blocks are eliminated from the grid the loose blocks above those eliminated will shift down to lower the grid. It might seem confusing at first, but once the gameplay is firmly grasped and you start creating larger blocks, the gameplay becomes quite frantic and lots of fun.

As the game is called Sum Fighter, to win a puzzle match you have to ‘fight’ a second player , which is found on a second onscreen grid beside the one you’re playing – much like in SEGA’s Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine – and when one players grid fills to the top, the other stands victorious. Eliminating blocks will fill a special meter that can be used with a quick button press to disrupt your opponent’s grid with a variety of different effects depending on the character used, and of course, your opponent will be sending attacks your way as well.




The game features a nice anime style and the tunes playing during the puzzle fights are catchy, but the handful of characters found in the game are quite dull. From the Jock to the Nerd, they all have a single written statement before each match in the Story Mode – we’ll get to the Modes in a bit – and a single paged comic strip storyboard is shown upon completing the Story Mode with each character. It’s mildly entertaining to read at best, and it’s just a shame that character specific voiceovers weren’t featured here – especially when the tutorial features full voiceover - as in game one-liners and voiced storyboards would have really given the fighters a bit more character.

There are only two game modes available: Story and Two Player Mode. The somewhat story-less Story Mode will take roughly 10-15 minutes to complete once the gameplay mechanics are understood and local multiplayer is just a basic one-on-one fight with a friend. There's no way to change the difficulty and gameplay variations are nowhere to be found either, stripping the game of lasting replay value once the game has been played through a few times over.

Blocks, blocks everwhere

Sitting at 240-Microsoft Points ($3), Sum Fighter is priced to be a title with a few more features expected compared to some of the lower 80-MSP ($1) games, but that’s just not quite the case. The unique gameplay at play here is definitely entertaining and if implemented into a larger scale (e.g. multiple difficulties, multiple game modes, gameplay variations, etc.) it could find itself as a top tier puzzle game on the service, but as it currently adds up, Sum Fighter is still in training mode and not quite ready for the spotlight just yet. 

- Christopher Ingram


Review: Sum Fighter (XBLA Indie Games)
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