BioHack Platform: Xbox Live Indie Games (Xbox 360) Price: 80 MSP / $1 Very complicated presentation for an otherwise decent puzzle game. Gameplay: The game starts off with a biological explanation of the mechanics of metabolites, enzymes, and so forth. To me, this was a pretty blunt way of beginning the game, it immediately throws you into textbook definitions of the chemical network systems, and it literally feels like I am sitting through a college level chemistry course. This is not the best way to open up a game in my opinion, in fact, I can imagine this truly steering many players away. After going a little deeper into the game, past the chemistry introduction, it opens up the first level which is a tutorial level which literally gives you step by step instructions to complete the level. This is a very useful tool to learn the game, over the course of the first few levels you gain the knowledge of the physics required to play this game, and it provides excellent explanations to all of the aspects of the game. After a good 10 minutes of the game, you start to see through the chemistry and complex explanations and you figure out that this is a regular puzzle game with a very complex and fancy presentation. Even though it is a puzzle game, it is physics based which is not simply covered up by science as it runs realistic simulations of chemistry reactions. Essentially, your goal is to distribute the given enzymes throughout the metabolic "paths", so it reaches the goal within the given time. The default setup of the paths does not make the enzymes reach within the time limit. In order to make them reach the goal in the time limit, you must draw additional channels, which either speed up or slow down the movement of the enzymes for a small portion of the path. You have to make sure the enzymes are evenly distributed (in most levels), so they can reach the goal within the given time limit which varies from level to level. In order to evenly distribute the enzymes, you get a certain amount of "speed up" sections to select, and a certain number of "slow down" sections to select. Sounds extremely complicated, right? After the tutorial and a couple of "test" levels, just to play with the physics and read up a little more on the "rules", you'll get the hang of it within the next 30 minutes. The learning curve is very steep, but luckily there is a very well designed tutorial which completely explains the game to those who are not experienced with chemistry at all, so in the end you'll look right past the complicated chemistry appearance and realize it’s a puzzle game. A puzzle game that you would see on your final exam, that is. BioHack has really straight forward controls. Left stick and right stick control your cursor as well as the camera, so you can zoom in on smaller portions of the level to see exactly what is happening. The “A” button allows you to pick the small portion of the path to be sped up with your cursor, whereas the “X” button does the exact opposite; you will select which portion of the path you want to slow down. “Y” is the button you will pray that works, because it runs the test and will tell you whether the puzzle is properly solved or not. There are a total of 25 puzzles to solve in this game, which obviously start off easy, and then get a little overly frustrating to solve in the later levels. The tutorial will ensure that you know what you're doing before you play the game. Graphics & Audio: The graphics are well done for what the game is. The game is on a 2D field, and you are presented the chemical formula in a similar fashion to a problem you would find in your undergrad science textbook. The different parts of the formula are all color coded, and they fluidly move across the paths with no problems at all. The menu presentation is actually very well done, a nice selection of colors, font, music, and images make it a very well constructed game. The audio is pretty simple on the other hand as you will hear generic background music in this game. Though I have to say the weak audio is not very important at all, considering that the game does not really need a soundtrack, you would not even notice it unless you were looking for it. Some of the later puzzles will require a LOT of thought. Replay value: It will take some serious determination to master the later levels in the game, the steep learning curve and the trial and error gameplay makes for a difficult and somewhat frustrating experience in the later levels. The one really awesome feature is that there is a leaderboard, which allows you to compete against your previous high scores, and gives you something to work for in order to get the best times. I was entertained by the game once I grasped the basics, but like I said, the later levels become a little too advanced sometimes. Also, another cool feature is the mutant mode, which will give you a randomly generated puzzle. Unfortunately there are only 25 levels which are not separated by difficulty. If the levels were organized by difficulty, for example 10 easy stages, 10 medium stages, 10 hard stages, it would cut the frustration and help boost the replay value. Due to this, I would have to say the replay value is relatively low for this game. If you have to deal with these kinds of mechanical puzzles in your chemistry course, you may find yourself coming back to play this game to help you study…seriously. Overall: BioHack is an interesting puzzle game which has a very rough presentation which may sway some players away. Luckily the game has a beyond excellent tutorial which teaches you everything about the game, and it turns out being an entertaining experience until the levels become a little too difficult. The learning curve is very long for this game, I would say it would take roughly 30 minutes to grasp the concept of physics behind the game, and much longer to master it. The game does not require any scientific background as it explains everything to you, but knowing the mechanics in these chemistry compounds will definitely help the process become a lot smoother. The game is very well presented, and it does not try to distract you with anything that does not pertain to the game. Unfortunately, it is fun only for so long, especially when after the tutorial, you may find yourself playing the same level 30 minutes in a row trying to figure it out. To me, this is not exactly grounds for a memorable game, trial and error games are not for everyone. Overall, I have to say it has an incredibly interesting concept, although as a game it does not make for a super memorable game. I had my fun with BioHack, but in the end I would say it is a merely average game that fell short of my expectations. Pros: +The tutorial is extremely detailed with step by step instructions +One of the rare games that truly make you think Cons: -Extremely long learning curve, especially for an XBLIG -Trial and error gameplay gets old after awhile BioHack modifies you enzymes to work at a much slower pace, scoring a 6.75/10.