Master of Alchemy is a competent iPhone puzzler, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before.
Did you enjoy playing with a science kit as a kid? If so, chances are you’re intimately familiar with the wonders of alchemy. Heck – if you’ve ever made ice cubes, you’re already one step ahead of the game. Alchemy is the art of turning one state – solid, liquid or gas – into another. That’s the crux behind the latest puzzle game from Chillingo, Master of Alchemy. As unique as it sounds though, this is a transmutation that felt average at best.
The basic idea behind Master of Alchemy is a fairly standard formula in the puzzle genre. You’ll need to use a series of items to help something travel from point A to point B. In this case, that something is solid, liquid, and gaseous elements. The items you’ll use will turn these elements from one state to another. Need to float up to a goal? Turn that liquid into a gas. Need to drop down to the floor? Turn that gas into a solid. It’s this unique alchemical transmutation – the turning of one element into another – that gives Master of Alchemy its hook.
That hook didn’t capture our imagination as deeply as we had hoped. Despite a healthy assortment of other items added into the mix as the game progressed, from wooden boards to color-mixing devices, the whole game just felt very rote. It’s an experience that puzzle gamers have been engaged in for years, from The Incredible Machine to Crayon Physics Deluxe. There’s nothing in Master of Alchemy that we haven’t seen before, leaving the experience feeling bland at best.
That’s not to say the game isn’t competent – many of the puzzles are well thought out, and the game does a great job of introducing new elements at regular steps along its 60 level journey. But that doesn’t mean the game doesn’t cut corners from time to time either. Many of the levels offer identical layouts, only with new items and start/finish locations thrown into the mix. While these may be different puzzles per se, it also felt like a bit of a cop out when creating 60 wholly unique levels should have been well within the developer’s reach.
Other problems crept up as well. The controls weren’t as intuitive as we would have liked, with the game often thinking we were trying to adjust one item when we were really trying to adjust another. And having to scroll to take in the whole playing field was something of a pain, forcing us to waste precious seconds locating start and finish locations when we should have already been trying to solve the puzzle.
Master of Alchemy is a competent puzzler, but it doesn’t really break any new ground, and it’s a little too flawed to whole-heartedly earn our recommendation. Veterans of games like Enigmo will be all too familiar with the gameplay, and those not familiar with Enigmo will see their money better spent on a puzzle game of that calibre. Turning liquids into gases sounds like a great puzzle game idea on paper, but Master of Alchemy doesn’t do enough to make the experience anything more than run-of-the-mill.