If you’ve watched CSI on television, you’re familiar with DNA. A coiled pair of nucleotide strands forming a double helix, a twisted ladder-like arrangement, its sequence of nucleic acids determines hereditary characteristics and offers the key to catching criminals and identifying their victims.
Nucleotides, however, can also be manipulated to create biological hybrids — the basis for D.N.A. A blender, if you will, for whipping up new creations at the molecular level.
D.N.A. most closely resembles a match-three puzzler. What makes it stand out, however, is its unique spin. In helping Dr. Rose Thompson with her research to save endangered flowers species, you merge different free-floating proteins into chains that burst and contribute to growing your experiment. But, unlike traditional color matching games where three or more like-colored objects are combined, you’re joining proteins of different colors to create a cell of a third.
Moreover, while you can join as few as two proteins together, in order for them to burst you must chain at least ten in sequence! More is better, increasing your score, but a minimum of ten is requisite. You can’t dawdle either as you’re working against the clock and have a quota to reach. Chance also plays a factor since proteins are randomly spawned.
Game modes, though, are standard fare. Action, Puzzle and Eternal comprise the choices. In Action, you assist Dr. Rose in a biological fight against time to combine proteins. Puzzle Mode tests your ability at solving fixed puzzles. And, for a stress-free experience, Eternal lets you play level-by-level sans a countdown timer. A total of 42 levels of play and 24 brain-twisting puzzles are include, as is an interactive tutorial that guides you through the first few levels.
To form a chain, you click on a protein of one color, then a nearby protein of another to join them into a cell. For instance, mixing a blue and red protein forms a purple cell. What’s more, when you join two differently colored proteins, they try to form chains with nearby shapes of the same color. Join a blue protein to a red and the latter will look for other red proteins with which to combine. Chain ten or more together and the resultant sequence contracts into a single cell, then bursts. Often, a cell won’t reach ten or more right away, but can be added to later when caught in another sequence. The bigger the chains, the higher your score.
Initially, you start with red and blue proteins that combine to create purple cells. Next, yellow proteins are added allowing for green and orange cells. Each level has a quota, too. As you progress, quotas increase in number, time limits grow shorter and special shapes are introduced to help or hinder. Viruses, for instance, infect and destroy unburst cells. Conversely, Tri-color Cells act as “wildcards” and Chain Cells allow larger sequences. You also have limited “lives” to retry a level if you fail. While you start with three, more are added as you go. But, run out and you’ll have to start from scratch.
In D.N.A.’s Puzzle Mode, your object is to clear each level. Proteins are placed in predefined locations and, typically, each puzzle has one solution or a very limited number. Choose the wrong combinations, and a puzzle is rendered unsolvable. Should that happen, simply click the reset button and try again. While you don’t have to worry about time limits or scoring in Puzzle Mode, a cell count of at least ten is still required to burst a chain. Timing is also a critical factor on some puzzles, joining multiple chains as they contract. Eternal Mode, mentioned above, is a great alternative for those put off by the pressure of timed play.
D.N.A. holds its own with the best in casual games. Graphics are simple, yet attractive. Music and sound effects are well suited to play. Verbal reinforcement for doing well, such as “Excellent” and “Fantastic” are appreciated extras. More than anything else, though, D.N.A. is addictive, possessing that just-one-more-level magic that results in cold meals and missed appointments.
Yet, it’s not perfect. Starting over from the beginning in Action Mode when out of lives is a bummer. It happens far too frequently. Giving both the option to begin from scratch and simply to continue on (with a penalty if need be) would improve playability. Restarting a level in Puzzle Mode is not as bad. Still, an undo option for your last move would be appreciated.
D.N.A. builds on and offers a distinctive twist to standard match-three play. In fact, it’s so unique and enjoyable it could spawn a whole new sub-genus of “chain-ten” puzzlers. Of course, it’s hard to predict exactly what’s going to happen when you start messing with DNA.