You can’t accuse Cronostase Electric Collection of being skimpy. Orange Box, eat your heart out. This is a compendium of seven games, with fifty levels in each, totalling 350 levels in total. It’s an absolute buffet of budget gaming, and should you want to explore every single level that Cronostase Electric Collection has to offer, then you better book off a few evenings.
There’s a footnote here, as – although the menu clearly offers up seven different games – they are all somewhat similar to each other. It reminds us a little bit of that scene in Forrest Gump when Bubba is trying to convince Forrest to join him in a shrimp venture. Just like Bubba’s shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo and more, Cronostase Electric Collection offers up circuit puzzles, two-coloured circuit puzzles, rotating circuit puzzles, sliding circuit puzzles, sticky circuit puzzles, single-move circuit puzzles…
A cynic would probably say that these are game modes, rather than distinct games. Any game could repackage their difficulty modes and options as completely different games and – voila – suddenly label them as a ‘Collection’. But we’ll suppress those thoughts, as each game does genuinely have something small to offer, and fifty levels per game is nothing to sniff at.
So let us take you on a guided tour. There’s Lighton, which puts you in control of a heroic yellow block who can push other blocks around a grid. This is the Sokoban puzzler of the collection, as your aim is to push the square elements of a broken circuit around and therefore create a closed circuit, connecting the battery to the lightbulb and illuminating the arena. With each lightbulb lit, your block does a neat CSI-style sunglass flourish, and you’re onto the next level of fifty.
It’s perfectly fine, actually. We’ve played a bemusingly large number of crate-pushing games, and Lighton manages to be a simple, slightly challengeless attempt at one. The circuit-theme doesn’t hide the truth that these are Sokoban puzzles, where certain crates need to be in certain places. That means pre-emptively working out which crate should be moved first and not getting stuck in the process. Lighton does a job, but it isn’t our first choice when we arrive at the menu.
Next up is Lighton Duo. This is virtually the same as Lighton, down to the layout of some of the arenas, but your cooler-than-thou block can now switch to a blue colour with a touch of the X button. When blue, you can pull blue blocks, and with yellow you can push yellow blocks. This duality adds some much-needed complexity and difficulty to Lighton’s more frictionless puzzles. Getting stuck is absolutely possible and entirely likely, so the addition of an Undo button and a Hint feature are more than welcome.
Lighton Duo is one of the hardest games in the collection. The push-pull mechanics are a decent riff on the traditional Sokoban, and we found ourselves pulling strange, puzzled expressions as we tried to work out the order of pushes. It’s worth trying, but it’s still got the stale whiff of a conventional Sokoban game.
Puzzle Light: One Move is the next on our tour, and it’s so numbingly easy that we wondered why it had been added. A broken circuit is displayed, and you have the ability to make one single swap of squares to fix it. The ‘One Move’ in the title is literal: you have one move and one chance of completing the puzzle.
That doesn’t leave much room for error, but it also doesn’t leave much room for fun, either. A circuit will either need to be fixed or shortened so that it can work, so you really only have two solutions available to you. And that just doesn’t make it into much of a puzzle. We blitzed through the levels and sought our thrills elsewhere.
Take a look out of your left window and you will see Puzzle Light: Rotate, which takes much the same approach of breaking a circuit and then asking you to fix it. But this time you have the power of rotation, as each block can be turned to form an electrical flow. We’re now in Pipe Mania territory, as the circuits stop being Sokoban puzzles, and instead become pipe-flow puzzles, as you look to create a path that passes through both battery and bulb.
It’s all rather Ronseal, delivering a pipe puzzle like every other pipe puzzle we’ve played before. Some pipes, bulbs and batteries are locked in place, giving you at least some clue of the direction of flow. And it works. But a sense of familiarity abides here, and you will no doubt have played countless other versions of these puzzles, although with more challenge and more mechanics.
And over to your right is Puzzle Light: Slide. We’ve taken our circuit puzzles into the land of Sokobans and pipe puzzles, and we’re now entering the familiar territory of an ice-sliding puzzle. The broken circuit needs missing blocks, and the only way to get those missing blocks is to slide them from one end of the arena to the other. This can only be done in the cardinal directions, so it’s all about sliding blocks up, down, left and right until they dink into the slots that have been made for them.
At risk of sounding like a stuck record here, it’s functional but unexciting. We have, once again, played umpteen ice-sliding puzzles, and this version doesn’t do much to distinguish it. There’s some depth and nuance that comes from sliding your own blocks so that they act as a stopper for other blocks, but that’s largely it. Heaving multiple ‘characters’ around the arena allows for difficulty to seep in (this is one of the more difficult games in the collection), but it’s not new or exciting enough to motivate you to try.
And finally, we arrive at our destination. Puzzle Light: Connect. Cronostase Electric Collection leaves the best till last in our view, as not only is it refreshingly unfamiliar, but it’s also the most fiendish. You can move your given broken circuit element around the arena however you want, but connect it to another circuit piece, accidentally or on purpose,and suddenly you are heaving it around the arena with you. Knowing which blocks to connect to, and in which order, is a headscratcher, and there’s a perverse joy in turning your main-character block into an unwieldy moving circuit.
There’s no denying the quantity that can be found in the seven games and 350 levels of Cronostase Electric Collection. If you like basic puzzling and want a time-filler, then there is ample content here.
But what began to grate was the overriding sense of familiarity. It’s not because the games within Cronostase Electric Collection are similar to each other; they do just about enough to distinguish themselves. Instead, the familiarity is with other games. There’s a couple of block-pushing games here, a pipe-puzzle and an ice-slider, and none of them are delivered inventively. You’ll have played them plenty of times before elsewhere, and those games likely did more with them. What’s delivered here is plain and unremarkable.
Cramming so many games and levels into a box as small and cheap as the Cronostase Electric Collection is undoubtedly an achievement. But we kept sifting through the sheer amount of stuff, on the hunt for something challenging and different. But only one, maybe two of the games had the spark of potential. As a hit-rate, that’s not high enough to get our finger hovering over the Purchase button.
You can buy Cronostase Electric Collection from the Xbox Store