Fight Those Germs – Germinator Review

 Platforms: PlayStation 3, PS Vita
Developer: Creat Studios/Zebulla Interactive Games
Publisher: Creat Studios
Rating: 3 (PEGI) / E10+ (ESRB)

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Germinator is from the bubble pop genre, the type known best by the Bust-A-Move/Puzzle Bobble series. In Germinator, the player is faced with rising germs, and needs to shoot down germs of matching colors in order to eliminate them.

This isn’t a simple match three formula, though, as combining like germs does more. Combining germs allows them to grow and explode. Charge up and shoot a germ into one of the same color, and depending on that color, the charged germ will react in different ways when it explodes. You’re able to charge a germ when you’ve earned enough points from eliminating germs on the screen. If the color you want to charge is below others, aim carefully and your charged germ will shoot through until it hits the matching color. The dynamic isn’t just an addition to the gameplay, it’s crucial to success. The different ways in which each color reacts when charged up is fun to cause both for the effect on the screen and the animations of the comical germs as they expand until they explode.

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The visuals are a lot of fun, bright and standing out the most when those personified germs make their disappearance. Okay, I’ll say it: seeing the germs blow up to different sizes, with the painful expressions on their faces, is a blast. But really, aside from the lame joke, the animation is half the fun of charging a germ. I once decimated the screen with a gigantic charged germ that seemed to just keep going. It was awesome. The sound effects work, but could pack a little more punch – especially in situations like that giant germ. The music isn’t memorable, but sets the comical tone for a germ puzzle game. I can recall right now in my head the weird intro music, the welcome level completion jingle, and the unwelcome bit played when the germs overtake the screen and you lose the level. The bit you hear when you lose, while good, is not something I enjoy hearing because of my perception of how the game plays. Was I that bad at these games years ago? Why do I hear see that losing screen and hear that music so often?

Speaking of losing the level, this game is not forgiving. This is a different take on the genre, and it should be stated that this feels like this was done on purpose. Missing a shot in some levels might make you want to just restart. Don’t fire quick enough or don’t effectively charge germs for multiplied effects, and you’ll likely find yourself in a losing battle with the rising level. To the developer’s credit, their decision to give this game some hair on its germy chest works. You must be deliberate and precise in order to win, which shouldn’t be as much a problem to some more experienced in this genre than I. That being said, being slightly off means those two germs might not bond, or you could hit another color – at times crippling your chances. Maybe it would be a crutch, but I’d like a line to show the direction of my shots. This might not be so much a bad thing to others who enjoy a hard puzzle game. In fact, it could give you all the more reason to want to play this game. I’d just appreciate some of the modes being a little easier to fight my way through than the obvious sniffles I have writing this plea.

Germinator does offer a few different modes to play, to include local multiplayer and leaderboards throughout. They are fun and provide several ways to enjoy the game, though the game needs one more option: a separate tutorial mode. Yes, you do learn as you go – once. Forget how that purple germ reacts when you learned it in the campaign? You better go back and find the level that showed you! The same goes for modes of play. Duel contains multiple one-on-one game types. You’re given the description of the game type the first time, but that’s it. Creat Studios, I suggest you add a distinct tutorial mode so I can refresh my memory and head back into the game with a better knowledge of how to blast those germs.

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On to the comparisons between the PS3 and PS Vita. This is great in small batches, and works out well for gaming on the go. Using the touch screen on the Vita to tap where I wanted to shoot wasn’t as fun as I thought it would be, though, but it could just be that I like the action of pointing and shooting at the targets and not simply tapping on them. I will say, though, that the Move option for the PS3 works great in the game, as it’s not only quick and precise, the Move target also shows where you’re pointing which assists with your aiming to shoot reticule. The menus for each version, when controlled by the Move or touch, though, are not very responsive at all. It makes me wonder why the game relies on such stiff digital ways of accessing the modes when it provides options of touch in the Vita version and the motion control of the Move for the PS3. Using the Move in the XMB of the PlayStation 3 menu doesn’t work well, and the menus in Germinator function worse to the point of having the DualShock handy just to get around because I still like using the Move to actually play the game. The menu for the Vita is surprisingly the same up/down/left/right buttons as featured in PS3. Great for using the standard cross or analog controls, but why not let me swipe with the touch screen? Instead, I’ve got to tap the same small buttons used to show which direction to hit. I think swiping works on the side, but it’s spotty.

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The PS3 version has local multiplayer with several types of play, which I only tried against the the AI. I like playing against the AI, and have been able to pull off some sweet combos while facing the onslaught of black goop piled onto my side whenever the computer pulls of its own combos. The campaign and puzzle mode each boast a lot of levels, comprised of five themed areas and a dozen levels in each that are even in shapes related to their respective areas. While you won’t find much of a story (who needs one?), you will find plenty of content for a puzzle game – especially if you get the bundle. In the US, you can get either the PS3 or Vita versions for $10 each, or buy them bundled for $15. This is how I’ve always wanted cross-play games to be sold, as I at times feel like I’m getting either a great deal by getting a two-for-one deal or end up wanting game available on both platforms but would be unwilling to buy the same game twice.

Germinator is fun in doses, and while It’s got a couple rough spots, I do hope they get ironed out by the developer soon because the game is fun. Also, I cannot fault it for being so unforgiving. This is something you should consider, though, if you’re looking for the memory I have of shooting to match three, creating a combo, and scoring big points without the irritation that these germs can provide. That being said, If you like the bubble pop genre, and enjoy a challenge, pick up a case of Germinator for either the PS3 or the Vita.

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