Shapo Review- The Balls Have Weight

The PC version's Main Menu
The PC version’s Main Menu

TikGamesPanda Craze is a clone that borrows a lot of things from classic arcade titles. While that game is all too familiar, it provides a solid gaming experience and promises an immortal shelf life. TikGames is back. This time they are shamelessly ripping off established casual games.

If Zuma and Tetris decided to procreate, Shapo would be their child. However, though Shapo may get the looks of Zuma and the behaviour of Tetris, Shapo is an individual all its own. It is not a clone; it’s an inspired puzzle game, with a perfect balance.

Shapo’s gameplay is easy to understand, but executing the mechanics is a different story. It requires logic, agility and composure. Basically, you will be completing lines in a certain field. You will be using balls grouped into tetromino-like shapes, placing them into slots (by pressing X) on said field. Just like in Tetris, once a line is filled, it will be eradicated, and a point value will be bestowed upon you.

Here’s the kicker: the field is placed on a BALANCE, and the balls have weight! There is some kind of laser beam coming out of the balance plate’s edges, and this laser beam hits the green gems in the left and right sides of your screen when the balance is perfectly level. You’re given three credits, and you must do your best not to tilt the balance too much. If the balance tilts so much that the laser beam hits one of the red gems directly above the green gems, you lose a credit.

This game is a port; Shapo is originally a PC game. The PSP version is a horror on paper when you consider that you have to move the balls around the screen and put them into the slots of the field using the analog stick. Let us not forget that more often than not, the balance is swaying like a pendulum, since you are trying to pull the weights back and forth. With a mouse, it would be a breeze. How does the control scheme translate to the PSP?

TikGames made a couple of genius moves. First, in the options, you can adjust the joystick sensitivity to suit your needs. Second, by pressing O, the cursor will slow down, and by pressing Square, the cursor will blitz. This may not truly emulate the mouse experience (this is purely theoretical; I have never played the PC version), but it works pleasantly.

big_screenshot_shapo_03

You can rotate the pieces with the shoulder buttons. Plus, pieces appear on the moving track right above the balance, and you can swap pieces as you see fit or as the field requires. There are powerups along the way and obstacles as you progress (pre-placed special balls), and bonus rounds are peppered here and there.

The content of this game is indeed marvelous: it offers 150 levels of gaming in Classic or Puzzle mode. In the Classic mode, the level objectives are based on how many pieces you should get rid of. Meanwhile, the Puzzle mode is all about filling the entire field with balls without tipping the balance over. Both are equally enjoyable and get really, really difficult as you move along.

The PC and PSP versions look exactly the same in-game
The PC and PSP versions look exactly the same in-game

Aesthetically speaking, the graphics could be improved. The game proper’s graphics are all right. Taking a page from Zuma, the game motif is about ancient civilizations. The visuals, including the balls, scream, “ZUMA!” But, the menus are convoluted, and the menu buttons are hideous. The soundtrack is horrible, and you would probably rather mute it.

The high score table features the top 5 stats of each mode, showing the time elapsed and the score, along with the stage name, round and level. I would rather see, though, the high score for EACH level, like what they did with Panda Craze.

This is such a good game, considering the gameplay, the replayability, the thrills and the chills the game provides. Again, the packaging is mediocre. It lacks finesse. I am not being a graphics whore, but it does help if the visuals are polished. In the end, however, the gameplay is what matters most.

8/10

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