In the latest puzzle game to hit Xbox One – ReactorX – you’re a technician travelling on a spaceship that has been hit by some errant asteroids. Systems go down, and the captain tasks you with restoring power to the reactor. How do you go about doing that? By using coloured boxes to light up corresponding coloured tiles, of course. It’s a pretty simple concept, but also one that potentially allows for some fiendishly difficult puzzles. Puzzles that can throw off even the most experienced gamers.
It’s a shame then that ReactorX takes the entire concept and completely fumbles it. Ultimately, it commits the cardinal sin for any puzzle game in that it’s way too easy, and thus completely unsatisfying to play.
This kind of game is supposed to make the player think. To encourage some intuition and lateral thinking from the player in order to solve the puzzle put in front of them. ReactorX doesn’t do that. The solutions are often clear from the outset. And most of your time will be spent just moving the boxes into their correct position.
What’s worse is that the game never gets any harder, staying at roughly the same difficulty for all 30 levels. The game does try to stop you in the later levels by giving you boxes that will only light up tiles in a certain direction, but it’s so painfully obvious where these go that you’ll still only need one attempt to beat most levels.
There aren’t any new mechanics introduced that could have potentially spiced up the gameplay either. The only thing we get that approaches that is the ability to charge up boxes with a specific colour. Hardly groundbreaking stuff. Oh, and the ability to drag boxes. How exhilarating…
It’s not just the gameplay. In fact, I found the controls to be just as bad, if not worse. It feels like you’re playing on ice the entire time with ReactorX, and the tiniest input will overshoot you. Trying to move boxes around becomes unnecessarily frustrating. It’s lucky that ReactorX only amounts to about thirty minutes of gameplay – any more and the controls would have probably forced me to put the game down.
Meanwhile, I found the presentation to be lacklustre. As with a significant portion of indie games, ReactorX opts for pixel art. Unfortunately, it isn’t done particularly well. The music is better and fits the sci-fi theme, but again is ultimately nothing remarkable.
It’s often the case that the best puzzle games have the simplest of concepts. ReactorX on Xbox One casts doubt on that. In fact, I struggle to think of anything that the game does particularly well. It’s a puzzle game – and a short one at that – without any real challenge, it’s got some of the worst controls I have experienced, and the graphics are nothing remarkable. The fact is, unless you’re interested in the quick and easy 1000 Gamerscore on offer, there is no real reason to pick ReactorX up. At just over £4, there are better options on the market.