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Kombinera – Review

Kombinera is something of a landmark for video gaming history as it marks the return to original games for Atari. Welcome back, its been a while. Thankfully they’ve picked a game that sells their retro arcade vibes and merged it with a hardcore puzzle platformer. My brain melted and I raged a lot but crucially Kombinera is addictive and well put together. It’ll be a wild ride though.

Different balls have different skills but your eyes will be everywhere making sure each ball is safe.

Kombinera is all about combining balls. Each level will have two or more and you need to merge them all together but the problem is they all move at once. Press left, they all move left. There are five types of ball, each with their own colour too. White are bog standard balls that can move and jump. Pink ones can run through pike spikes unharmed. Yellow balls can smash yellow walls or floors when touching them. Green balls can take weapon fire and absorb it like a shield. Lastly blue balls can walk through blue walls. Often you’ll have multiple ball types in a level and you’ll need to work out in what order to combine them to navigate the level too. Combine two or more balls of different colours and the ball will take on all their skills.

Each level may look quite simplistic (reminding me of Atari’s arcade golden age era) but they are built for forward planning in mind. You also have two jump types – a small and large jump – mapped to different buttons. This is crucial as balls can be kept still by pushing them into holes or walls that are too high to climb with a small jump whilst other balls small jump up stairs. Once you have a level figured out, you then need some hand-eye coordination because controlling four or five balls at once is tricky. One is always in danger somewhere if not more. Death happens often but almost always feels fair and down to the player.

Each level has a time trial to attack and many have yellow crowns for optional collectables to unlock secret levels.

The sole exception to this is my only real negative for Kombinera. Yellow platforms behave inconsistently with yellow balls. Sometimes you can jump off them before they break, sometimes you just slip through them, but I felt I was timing the jumps at the same time and getting varied results. This lead to some levels feeling like a frustrating bottleneck at times. I’ll also be clear – I haven’t been able to complete Kombinera yet as this game is hard! Over 300 levels across 8 chapters are on hand and I’ve only got into the 160’s so far but I’ve been enjoying the challenge and twists the game gives. Once it throws in gravity shifts, your brain power will be tested like a pat-your-head-rub-your-belly styled game.

If puzzles are your thing, you’ll love this. There is also added time trial mode to beat very tight time limits should you be really on the ball. They are very challenging and often make you think of multiple ways to complete larger levels. Crowns can be collected for extra challenges too, usually requiring extra dexterity and planning to collect. Colour blind gamers can rest easy too. There are two specific colour palettes that will hopefully be useful for you.

Kombinera is a great puzzle platformer that will hand your brain back to you over and over again. Its difficult but fair. Expect many hours of challenge, lots of swearing at the screen and a ton of satisfaction when you get it right. Enter with caution but enjoy a rewarding ride.

Review code provided by publisher.

Kombinera
Final Thoughts
A simple premise that is fiendishly difficult. A fine puzzle platformer for the hardcore genre fans.
Positives
Simple to understand, hellish to master.
Varied ideas around the same premise.
Incredibly challenging and brain melting at times as it requires hand/eye co-ordination alongside deduction skills.
Plenty for the time trial enthusiast to get stuck into.
Negatives
Some inconsistencies with jumping on breakable platforms.
8
Great
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