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Polarity [No Longer Available] is a new game on Android that’s getting a lot of buzz as reviewers are likening it to Valve’s hit Portal. Polarity is also a physics-based puzzle game and there are already plenty of such good games on Android. What’s different is that it’s played from a first-person perspective. So does it live up to the hype?
What’s Polarity All About?
In Polarity, you are a puzzle-solving hacker who needs to progress from level to level using only your wits. There are three key elements to the game:
- Polarity: The feature that the game derives its name from, this is your ability to change between red and blue energy fields. When you have activated one colour, you can safely pass through laser gateways of that same colour. So if you have a floor made out of blue energy, then activating your red energy field will let you walk on it; turn to blue and you’ll fall to your doom.
- Data Fragments: Scattered throughout the levels, you will find green glowing data fragments. You need to actively seek these out and collect them because each level requires a certain number of fragments to unlock it.
- Energy Blocks: Much like the cubes you carry around in Portal, you get energy blocks in Polarity. Put a red energy block in its red receptor and you’ll activate some switch to help you get through that level.
Graphics & Gameplay
Once you know the basics of Polarity, the game gets down to the brass tacks. Using the laws of physics, you need to activate the right triggers and switches to collect all the data fragments in a level and reach the exit. You will be required to activate moving platforms, jump on boosters that launch you to unreachable places, and smartly use your energy blocks to figure out how to get out of there.
I have mixed feelings about the visuals of Polarity. They aren’t as polished as Dead Trigger 2, but they aren’t bad either. I don’t think it’s fair to compare mobile games to the likes of console or PC games just yet, although they are getting there. For now, let’s just say this: Polarity doesn’t look bad and there aren’t any glaring errors that stick out. That’s good enough for me.
The control system of Polarity could use some refining though. Played in landscape mode, you have a directional pad on the left and you aim with the right side of the screen. The left also houses an interact button (to pick up energy blocks or activate switches) while the right has the Polarity button and a jump button. The problem is that the placement of these can’t be customized, nor can you choose to have the entire left side act as a directional pad, which is common on recent first-person games on touchscreens. The result is that it feels comfortable to use only on a particular size of screen. I tried the game on different screen sizes: 4″, 5″, 5.5″, 7″ and 10″. The game is comfortable from 5 to 7 inches. On 4″ screens, it’s too cramped. On 10″ screens, your thumbs start hurting after a while. Being able to customize the controls would have made the game a lot more enjoyable than it currently is.
The puzzles are quite challenging, but never so difficult that you need to look up a walkthrough or be stuck for hours. You will always figure it out eventually. But the fact that it makes you think and not just breeze through is quite pleasing. I’m very happy with the difficulty level of the game as if it had been a tad more difficult or easier, the gameplay would not have been worth it. And really, the gameplay is all that Polarity has going for it.
Missing A Soul
I don’t understand the people who have been comparing Polarity to Portal. To me, it seems that they completely missed what makes Portal such a compelling game. It isn’t just the puzzles and physics engine, although those are awesome. While not as good, Polarity can hold its own in that department.
Where Portal really shines is in making you feel like a trapped crusader, trying to break free. There is a compelling storyline throughout to make you care about your character. And then there’s GlaDOS, one of the best video game villains of all time.
I don’t expect Polarity to have that level of involvement given the vast difference in budgets, but Bluebutton Games could have still done better. There’s a weak storyline told in text at the start of the game and then you’re left on your own. Something like that works in Angry Birds, but it’s not what the first person mode is about. First person games are about making the gamer feel engrossed, taking advantage of the perspective of the player. They need deep storylines, they need to make the player care about his character. And they need to make the player feel like he’s part of a real world.
Polarity vs. Portal? Give me a break, it’s not even a contest. Polarity is a fun game, but it lacks a soul.
Polarity is not the first game to be inspired by Portal, as we have seen with Mari0, but perhaps the comparison is unfair in the first place. If you treat Polarity as a game independent of Portal, then it’s a solid puzzle game played from an uncommon first-person perspective.
- The Good: The physics engine is solid and the gameplay is fun.
- The Bad: The graphics are middling, the controls are uncomfortable on small screens and big tablets.
- The Ugly: The lack of an engrossing storyline and the sterile environment does little to make you care about the outcome. It’s a purely cerebral process.
Verdict: For $1.12, you should pick it up and it’s enjoyable as long as you don’t go expecting a “Portal for mobiles.”