It's been quite a while since we've had a decent puzzle game in the office - the last one of note was Lemmings 2. The puzzle game has always been a firm favourite with gamers. Not all have brilliant graphics and sound, but they more than make up for it in the playability and addiction departments. Tetris, Columns and Lemmings are all classic examples of what a puzzler should be like.
What makes them so attractive? Why do people put themselves through sheer puzzle hell? Satisfaction is one of the answers. If you complete a level on Lemmings which no-one else you know can do, you get a really warm glow.
Beating your high-score on Tetris is a personal achievement - and achieving things is an important part of life. Some may conquer mountains, others save a human life. However, when you get to heaven and God asks you what you have achieved, at least you can say that you completed the Mayhem level on Lemmings.
After releasing the James Pond series of games Millennium are about to enter the puzzle games fray. I say "fray" advisedly because if you make a good puzzler it is adored by everyone. Produce a bad one and you're guaranteed to sell zilch. Morph is, thankfully, one of the good ones and I have a sneaky suspicion that it could well challenge Lemmings for that cult puzzle status.
It concerns, not Tony Hart's plasticine friend, but a fat little boy called Morris Rolph, or Morph as he is known to his friends. He unfortunately has a crackpot uncle called Professor Krackenpot. The Professor must have been meddling with drugs because he has built a teleport machine.
Morph, being slightly chubby, thought that this machine would be helpful - he could play lots of pranks and get into football matches for free, as well as escape from school early.
Being a very eager child, Morph decided that he wanted a go on it right away. Unluckily for him, it hadn't been tested on humans, and when the lever to start the machine was accidentally moved Morph disappeared leaving behind a trail of swirling stars.
A thunderstorm brewing that fateful night, and as Professor Krackenpot went to turn the machine off a bolt of lightning tore through the roof and blew it up, scattering its components around the surrounding countryside. All that remained of Morph was a cloud of twinkling atoms and electrons. Then a voice spoke up as if from nowhere. It was Morph, who calmly explained his predicament to the Prof. "I can't regain my body, but i can pull my molecules closer together and change my shape.
I'll go and find the missing parts and you can repair the machine and bring me back!" Chubby people are always optimistic, aren't they?
Morph can now transform himself into four different substances - gas, liquid, flexible and solid - all of which are explained in that little panel down there, so before you continue I suggest you read it.
The object of the game is for Morph to re-assemble the teleporter enabling him to return to the form of a small boy. To achieve this, he has to collect each of the machine's many pieces, represented in the form of cogs. He must collect the cog in each level, complete the level within the given number of transformations, and use no more of any individual transformations than allowed.
The levels (Garden, Factory, Sewers and Laboratories) are spread over four different areas, each of which has its own particularly tricky hazards and puzzles to complete.
This is one of those games which on first glance looks the worst puzzle game in existence, but if you sit down and take your time you will discover a classic.
Changing shape and substance is one heck of a concept and as far as I know nothing has been done like this before. Controlling the game is simple. The joystick is used to move Morph around, each state having its own movement characteristics.
To change into another state all you have to do is hold the fire button down and move the stick left, right, up or down depending on which state you want to be. The layout and design of the different levels is really clever. The first few levels are relatively easy and you feel as though you'll complete Morph in 15 minutes, but as you progress everything gets more complicated and you have to put more thought into the game.
It contains some brilliant graphics - chunky and colourful. The introduction sequence is especially impressive and some of the in-game anims raise a wry smile. The Professor looks as though he would fit perfectly into an episode of Mr Bean.
On the sound front there is a happy, bouncy little tune which runs throughout with plenty of good sound effects dotted around. I think Morph might take a bit of a battering from some Amiga games mags, but I liked it. The only complaint I could think of is that it could have done with a few more levels, but perhaps if it's successful, a data disk might appear.
Morph is the best puzzler I've played since Lemmings 2 and it will definitely appeal to puzzle fans in a big way. It has got the graphics, sound, playability and is addictive as hell. What more do you want from a computer game?