Kombinera review: Atari’s latest puzzle craze

Kombinera is the latest puzzle game from Atari – the newest IP from Atari. Check out our Kombinera Review via Nintendo Switch.

Kombinera Review: What is Kombinera?

Kombinera is a new puzzle game developed by Graphite Lab and Joystick Labs and published by Atari. This is the first new IP to come out of Atari in quite some time. Kombinera is a brand new experience hidden behind a very familiar coat of paint – it’s easy to tell that this game was actually a classic Atari game rather than a new invention. That’s a good thing, as it means that Kombinera doesn’t stray from the Atari brand and fits quite nicely into Atari’s huge library of games.

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Kombinera was launched on April 7, 2022on PC, Nintendo Switch, iOS, PS4, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X. This Kombinera review was done using the Nintendo Switch version of the game.

Kombinera Review: Gameplay

At Kombinera, the goal is simple. Players are tasked with finding a way to combine (see what they did there?) different colored spots. The color of the blob defines its characteristics: white blobs are your vanilla blobs with no special properties. Pink spots are immune to spikes, yellow spots can break yellow bricks, green spots are immune to rockets, and so on. Combining different drops will also have their combined properties, so a white drop that is combined with a pink drop will also be immune to spikes.

All blobs are checked simultaneously. By moving the joystick, all the spots will move in the same direction. Therefore, players will have to use the environment, such as obstacles and elevation, to move the blobs to where the players want them to be. The game’s controls are also very tight and responsive, making every miss feel deserved. This also means that completing difficult levels brings a sense of relief and exhilaration, as you have finally figured out how to solve a puzzle and execute the steps successfully. The game rewards persistence and control mastery, making both puzzle-solving skill and mastery of player mechanics equally important.

The process of discovering the sequence of moves required to solve the puzzle is only the first part of the game. This already gives you a high: you feel smart about being able to figure out how to beat a level. Then, you are ready to try to execute the sequence of steps in your mind. Sometimes this will lead you to realize that the sequence in your head won’t actually be possible, or won’t get you through the level. That will take you back to the drawing board, trying to figure out how to complete it again. Once you have successfully run the sequence and combined all the blobs, you will get another high level. You are smart to figure out the sequence AND skillful to perform the necessary moves with the game’s very tight controls.

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The main goal of each stage is to find a way to gather all the blobs. There are two secondary objectives in the game that help give you extra longevity: Beat Time and Collect Crowns. These two secondary objectives allow players to not only solve the puzzles, but also challenge themselves to collect the crowns as they beat time. It will take most puzzles a couple of extra tries before you can figure out the correct sequence to accomplish all of the objectives.

Add to these objectives a plethora of Achievements that players could attempt to complete, adding another layer of achievements for finishers. A secret “ninth chapter” of the game is also available which, while not adding to the game’s story, does add secret levels to further challenge players. These secret levels are unlocked at different points in the game and as players earn achievements and reach different milestones.

History

The game does not have an actual story, but there is a semblance of a story that is told through a variety of cutscenes in the game. The game is organized into eight chapters, with new chapters adding new colors of Blobs to the game, adding more complexity to the puzzles, and keeping the game fresh. Between chapters, cutscenes play out to tell players the story behind these Blobs. There’s not much to talk about in this department, but at least there was some semblance of narrative in the game to keep you interested, preventing this game from being just a laundry list of puzzles to complete.

Graphics

The game features a very stark contrast between a monochrome background and very brightly colored blobs and environmental elements. The stark contrast helps players differentiate between the environment and the elements of the stage. The simple art style is well suited to the game’s puzzle-platformer genre, and its refusal to clutter the screen with detail helps keep the focus on the puzzles at hand. While simple, the game also looks wonderful. The simplicity of it all helps make the game feel very relaxing. Even after a hundred failures in a single level, there is not an ounce of frustration in my veins – the game design ensures that I stay relaxed all the time.

However, the game’s graphics go completely crazy during cutscenes. An epilepsy warning at the start of the game should prepare you for the kind of visuals you’ll see here. Admittedly, I should have played the game with the lights on to save my eyes from the blinding colored lights shooting off the screen in some of the cutscenes. But unfortunately, being on Switch, I played this game in bed while trying to lull myself to sleep. The lights are off, and this would blind me and wake me from my drowsiness at the end of each chapter. And I never learned. With that, just watch out for the very bright and colorful visuals in the game and you should be fine.

Music and Sound Design

The game’s music was designed to be relaxing, soothing your frustration even after hundreds of failed attempts. Relaxation encourages both types of players who play this game: those who keep trying with trial and error until they complete it, and those who take their time to think things through. The soothing music and the light sound that comes from a miss are very light, letting you know that failing is not a big deal and that you can jump to your next attempt immediately.

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In contrast to the light and relaxing music and sound design present in the solving process, the game goes haywire every time you successfully complete a level. Each completed Chapter is also met with a more epic and festive melody. Thankfully, these tunes don’t end up feeling too off-putting to the point of annoyance: they fade just before they linger longer than expected. The sound design masterfully controls the mood of the person playing the game, heightening emotions when needed and relaxing them to combat potential frustrations. So make sure you play with the sound on.

Accessibility

For such a colorful game, it is very important to make sure that colorblind people can distinguish colors. Fortunately, the game has different colorblind modes to make sure that visual impairment does not prevent you from enjoying the game. This extends to screen shaking and flourishing, which could have detrimental effects for some players, which could be turned on and off in-game. Game controls can also be remapped to some extent, which should help other people who are having trouble with the game’s default key combination. This Kombinera review reports that the game has enough and extensive accessibility options that the vast majority of people can play it.

Kombinera Review: Verdict – It is Kombinera worth your time and money?

Kombinera is a fun brain teaser that offers a lot of challenges in both logic and hand-eye coordination. If you like puzzles and platformers, this game offers you a lot, with hundreds of challenging levels that you can immerse yourself in. However, the challenge extends beyond completing the games. The game also challenges players to not only conquer the levels, but also to master them, challenging you to go back and collect all the crowns and beat the timer. Sprinkle in a good dozen secret levels that are even more challenging, and you have a game here that is worth every penny you spend on it and will keep you busy for hundreds of hours.

Score: 8/10

Kombinera review Ataris latest puzzle craze

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