Tablet PC owners are always looking for a good game to play on their machines, especially those that can be played entirely with the pen in slate mode. There aren’t that many that play really well but Increment Software is trying to change that. They have recently released a demo of an upcoming game called Slate Labyrinth and were kind enough to provide me with the full commercial version of the game for this review. The game can be played with just the pen and slate and even though it is dead simple to play it is so challenging it’s driving me crazy. Continue on for the full review with lots of screen shots after the jump.
The object of Slate Labyrinth is quite simple- the game unfolds one level at a time and each level consists of a maze with twisty corridors and dead ends. As soon as the level begins water starts flowing from the start position and begins filling the maze. If left to its own device the water will eventually fill the entire maze and make it out the end position(s), which is the goal to beat the level. This wouldn’t be much fun so the game developers put a timer of sorts on the action in the form of a water volume limit. As the water fills the various tunnels the game tracks how much water has entered the maze and each level has a volume limit that if exceeded means you have failed the level. The trick to completing each level is to use the pen and draw walls that close off any path that uses water without helping reach the exit. This sounds very simple but you must determine which is the only path of least water usage, draw any walls needed to block off areas that don’t contribute to reaching the goal, and all while the water is flowing at a fairly rapid pace. I found it very unusual to complete a level on the first go-round as the water volume limits for each level leave very little margin for error. You’ll see this screen a lot:
Starting the game is simple and you can learn the controls in about 10 seconds. The options screen allows you to set the volume and presence of the music, speech and sound in the game. There is a tutorial that demonstrates all facets of the game play using spoken instructions, and the screens presented at the end of each level use speech, too. The graphics are very well done and quite pleasing, although the actual labyrinth levels are pretty plain. The music is quite nice but some users will likely turn it off after playing the game a while since it does get repetitive, although not annoyingly so.
Slate Labyrinth is so simple and yet so challenging it is one of the best puzzle type games I have played in a good while. The fact that I can play it on my Tablet PC with just a pen is icing on the cake and I hate to admit how much time I have spent playing the game, and I’m not even close to completing it.
Increment Software has a fully functional demo available on their web site that lets you play the first few levels to see if you like the game enough to purchase. The full version of the game can be pre-ordered for $19.95 and will provide hours of game play. It should be released very shortly according to the developers, and I have experienced no problems at all with the version I used for this review. I like this game a lot although the advanced levels are maddeningly difficult. Increment Software has produced a real winner in my book.
UPDATE: According to the developer of Slate Labyrinth there are 50 levels total in the game and it should be released by July 18. jk