Publisher: Game Club Cafe
Requirements: Mac OS X 10.3.9. Universal.
Trial: Fully-featured (60 minutes).
When I write game reviews for ATPM, I usually recruit my son Justin to help put the game through its paces. For the StoneLoops review, I also got help from my wife, Courtney. Based on the many hours Justin and Courtney spent with the game, it is easy to declare that the game is perfect. But what does my expert opinion say?
Goal of the Game
The goal of the game is to prevent a rolling chain of colorful stones from reaching the gaping mouth of a dinosaur skeleton head. Equipped with a sort of tractor beam device, you can grab individual stones and re-arrange the chain. Get three or more stones of the same color together and they explode. The chain shortens to give you a few precious seconds to plan your next move. As you blow up the stones, there are power-ups to catch. You can poke the stones with a spear, turn them into the same colors, shoot fireballs at them, have a pteranodon swoop down on them, and more. Earn enough points from blasting the stones and you advance to the next level. Other rewards are gems for you to catch and upgrades to your houses. You start with a fancy tree house which then gets a better roof, railing, mechanical elevator, and so on. The house gets fancier as you advance to the higher levels.
Re-arrange the stones into row of three or more to blow them up.
Upgrades to this house include the top level, the palm trees, and the in-ground swimming pool.
Modes of Play
There are supposedly three modes of play, although they really boil down to the same game. You have to start with the Classic mode, where the stones roll forward toward their destination as you try to blast them. Clear a number of the Classic levels to unlock the Strategy and Survival modes. In Strategy mode, the stones roll once with each action you make so you have plenty of time to plan your next move. However, you can press the spacebar and the game reverts to Classic. Survival mode differs from Classic mode only in that you can choose which of the completed levels to re-visit. In all modes, your goal remains the same, to blow up stones as they roll toward the dinosaur mouth. The only variation to the game is the Bonus Round, where you try to shoot pop-up targets with stones of the same color to earn power-ups for the next level. Not that this is a problem with the game. The simple rules of the game make it easy to learn, yet hard to quit. It is just a game to occupy time.
There are four difficulty levels—Easy, Normal, Challenge, and Skill Master. You have to pass some number of levels to unlock the Skill Master setting. I would not know as I never got past even the first 15 levels. Much to my surprise, my wife, supposedly the casual gamer, has already gotten to level 40.
While I enjoy playing StoneLoops, I also have a few minor gripes with it. A male voiceover shouts encouraging words like “GOOD!” and “SMASHTASTIC!” frequently. He also dramatically announces “A NEW UPGRADE” whenever you get enough points to improve the house, in the manner of a sportscaster relaying a touchdown. I find it annoying after a while, and there is no way to mute just the announcer.
Another issue with StoneLoops is that, although you can create many players with each login, you can have only one saved game per player. Let’s say you created an account called Joe and played an Easy game, then wanted Joe to try out the Normal level. You would have to delete the saved game for Joe and start all over with the Normal level. To be fair, you do have the option of switching difficulty level mid-game by pressing the Esc key.
Lastly, I wish that it were not so easy to change from Strategy mode to Classic mode. Strategy mode is for relaxing, but one press of the spacebar and the stones will start rolling just like in Classic.
Based on the experience of my family of three, StoneLoops is a Very Nice game that has something for everyone. The better players, like my wife, can run away with the Classic mode and blast stones as fast as she can. The slower players like me and Justin can take our sweet time with the Strategy mode. It would be nice if it were not so easy to accidentally switch from Strategy to Classic, but it is easy to avoid once you know about that the little annoyance.