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Kombinera Review

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Atari has been pretty active as of late, publishing a series of titles that aim to bring new life to the company’s classics.

Black Widow, Asteroids, Breakout and more have all received the “Recharged” treatment, introducing new modes, challenges and fancier visuals. But now it’s got something brand new to unleash upon the world, a puzzle game developed by Graphite Lab and Joystick. It’s called Kombinera, and playing it might have you thinking about balls even as you try to drift off to sleep at night.

Playing Kombinera, you’ll find yourself in control of multiple balls at any given time. And to make things even more complex, you move them all at once. They might be scattered all over the screen, but as soon as you press left or right they’ll all move in that direction. Unless of course there’s something stopping them from moving. With your aim in each level being to unite all the balls into one, then, you need to use the environment to your advantage.

You might need to line up all of your balls correctly using walls so that you can move them all in the same direction while jumping over a series of spikes, for example. Two types of jump are available: a short one which reaches the height of about one block, and a large one that can get you over two. But like in most puzzles games, more elements are soon  introduced, making levels increasingly difficult to complete.

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It’s not long at all until balls stop being simply white in colour, devoid of any special traits. First, pink balls are introduced, which can move through pink-coloured spikes without any hindrance. Then there are yellow balls, which can destroy platforms upon touch. Next up are green balls, which are impervious to green projectiles. And then finally there are blue balls, which can safely pass through blue columns that crush other balls. You’ll need to consider all of their unique properties to unite them.

You might have to unite a pink and white ball first to traverse a spike pit, then use a green ball to stem a flow of green projectiles before rolling into it with your might pink and white ball. Needless to say, Kombinera gets tricky pretty fast. You’ll sit and analyse the screen, wondering how you can get each ball to join another successfully. Or you’ll spring into action and try to find a solution via trial and error. Ultimately, a mix of both generally does the trick.

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There are more than 250 levels to complete overall, spread across eight chapters. And the further you progress, the more there is to consider. Just when you think you’ve got your head around things, for example, you’ll encounter balls that defy the laws of gravity, and a whole lot more. Just completing every level here will be a challenge, but those hell-bent on mastering the game will also need to complete each level under par time, and collect the occasional crown that is hidden within them.

It’s tough, but Kombinera impresses with its clever ball puzzles. Like most classic puzzle games, the concept is simple and easy to get your head around, but allows for some serious brainteasing as more elements are added. Some may quickly become frustrated with it, and it’s a shame there’s little in the way of help when you truly do become stuck, but that shouldn’t stop puzzle fans from lapping this up. It might just be one of the best puzzle games in years.

Kombinera Review – GameSpew’s Score

This review of Kombinera is based on the PS5 version, with a code provided by the game’s publisher. It’s available on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Switch and PC.
Editor in Chief // An avid gamer since discovering the wonders of the Acorn Electron in the '80s, Rich has nearly played more games than he's had hot dinners. Not one to put all his eggs in one basket, Rich is happy to play games of all genres, but he particularly enjoys racing games and anything that's full of non-stop action, especially if it includes a good dose of humour, horror or crudeness!