Glow Artisan - Review

Glow Artisan was first released in December of 2009 as DSiWare for the ubiquitous Nintendo DSi handheld gaming device. It was received with fantastic reviews from nearly every critic and gamer to give it a go.

If anything, Glow Artisan is a bit overwhelming and fantastic. Powerhead Games has constructed a puzzle game with such depth and scale that every other game within the same genre has been put to shame. I mean, there are puzzle games and then there's Glow Artisan. A puzzle game's puzzle game. Now that Glow Artisan has been ported to WP7 as part of the library of Xbox Live Arcade games we'll have to see how well this puzzler translates to a single screen. So far, things look fantastically overwhelming.

Read on to find out why.

Glow Artisan is a puzzle game of creating patterns out of rows and columns of three different colors - red, blue, and yellow. The basics of the game are amazingly simple. Colors can be combined to make purple, orange, green, and white (color theorists just lost their minds) by combining all three colors. Rows of color can be deleted and recolored or recolor-combined at any time. Simple rules are easy to follow and all the initial levels go over them at a slow and steady, "Are you getting this?" pace.

There's no limit to how many moves you can make and there's no clock you need race against to solve each puzzle. You are being timed though, and each puzzle has a minimum time and set of moves that you must meet or beat to earn a Bronze, Silver, or Gold medal. Believe me, you'll blow by the first fifteen minutes to half hour of Glow Artisan thinking it's no challenge at all. You'll be earning medals and unlocking bonus puzzles and earning pieces of trophies in no time at all.

Then you'll move from Novice to Apprentice to the harder Artisan puzzles and begin questioning how you'll ever become a Master. You have the option of letting the game solve a puzzle for you up to three times a day but you won't earn any of the rewards by letting the game get you passed them. You need to earn your trophy pieces to advance to the harder levels. Glow Artisan also provides some fun relief from it's many challenging puzzles in the main menu.

The puzzle gallery is a showcase of all the puzzles you've already solved. You can replay them as often as you'd like and earn a better medal. There is also a randomize-r that generates a completely new and random puzzle on the spot. Feeling crafty? You can create your own puzzles too. Most surprising feature? Glow Artisan has access to your camera and photo albums. You can make puzzles based on your own photos or take a new photo on the spot to create a new puzzle. Granted, the puzzles look nothing at all like your photo, and it's pretty much a gimmick to keep you playing, but it's pretty neat that it's even in there.

This is exactly how Glow Artisan sets itself apart from every other puzzle game. It doesn't just hold your hand and show you the way but it also stands beside you to help before casting you into the puzzley fire. Even though each and every option in Glow Artisan just leads to another board of colors that need to be rearranged, the options are there, and that extends gameplay a great deal. Hell, there's even an option that players can toggle on or off to make the blocks change into lines and shapes to rearrange instead of colors for people who may be colorblind.

The only thing lacking in Glow Artisan is music. There is none. There are sound effects for each movement of color or a ping for level completion and a trumpeted reward tune for medals and trophies but that's about it. You can even turn those sounds off if you don't like them. I often played along to whatever music I had Zune playing. I think it made for a better experience. [Update: PowerHead Games let us know via Twitter that they have submitted an update to Glow Artisan with music. Look for it soon. -ed.]

I tend to fare quite well with puzzle games and this was a handful for me. Glow Artisan is lots of fun, exceptionally robust, and a great challenge for even the most experienced puzzler.

Grab the game here (opens Zune Desktop)

Rob Alvarado