By Josh Speer / November 9th, 2015
|Title||Mondrian: Abstraction In Beauty|
|Release Date||September 21, 2015|
|Genre||Block-breaker, Casual, Puzzle|
Sometimes, I just need a nice, relaxing puzzle game. Sure, I love hardcore platformers and nail-biting SHMUPs, but there’s something about those classic, easygoing puzzle games that defies words. Maybe it’s because I grew up loving games like Tetris and Bust-a-Move, but there are times when I need to decompress and wind down with a nice, calm game. Such a game is Mondrian: Abstraction In Beauty. This casual brick-breaking puzzle game looked ready to satisfy that puzzle itch, but was it worth my time?
It may have the word “abstract” in the title, but Mondrian quickly brings the word “minimalist” to mind. The thing about it is there are not many bells or whistles. The core concept of the game focuses around moving a paddle around the field to bounce the ball off blocks, thus destroying them. Destroy all the blocks on the field, and you move on to the next stage. However, if the ball flies off the screen, you lose. Granted, losing is no big deal, since Mondrian doesn’t keep track of score and you can’t truly lose anything. Instead, it uses in-game achievements which progressively unlock more content.
There are 40 different achievements in total, and they range a wide gamut. You can unlock different wall types, new balls with unique mechanics and color swaps. Once unlocked, features will be procedurally generated every level to help keep things fresh. By unlocking enough achievements, you will also gain access to different difficulties, which mix things up with new tools and more demanding fields. While I appreciated the variety these unlocks added to the base gameplay, I felt it took a bit long to acquire them. Granted, this was fixed in part by an update that lowered the threshold for unlocking achievements, but, even then, I was only able to unlock the Intermediate Tier, with Advanced lying tantalizingly out of reach. And, though the game is very easygoing and casual, some of the achievements are an utter pain to unlock.
Some of the more fun mechanics I experienced in the game were the Bombs and Breakerball. Typically, when you hit a regular block, the ball will bounce off it. Bomb blocks, however, violently explode when hit, forcing you to have quick reflexes to keep your ball from flying into the void. The Breakerball is a ball variant that, instead of bouncing off blocks, plows through them. The catch is, the more blocks you break, the more your Breakerball falls apart. If it comes apart completely, you lose that level. Luckily, you can replenish it by bouncing it off walls and your paddle.
Another way Mondrian adds to replay value is through Expansion packs that add new themes, utterly changing the background and field. Currently two packs are available, one for upcoming Children of Liberty (also by the Lanatana Games) and one for Kickstarted project Neverending Nightmares. Though the Neverending Nightmare pack is free, it also requires you already own that game, which prevented me from experiencing it. The Children of Liberty theme was cool, however, and not only made the game look completely different but also tweaked the physics and paddle flexibility. While I wasn’t blown away by the Expansion packs, it was a nice extra bonus, and free of charge to boot.
One other way that Mondrian will keep you playing is with Challenge levels. These are unlocked by beating consecutive levels, and each throws curveballs at you to make things interesting. The first time I played one of these Challenge levels, I thought my game was glitching since I started a level with no paddle. Little did I realize, I could still move the level itself around, thus using the entire thing as my paddle. Other examples are missing walls or, most terrifying, a level where the blocks continuously fade each time you bounce the ball, resulting in a level where you can’t see a bloody thing. Overall I enjoy the idea of the Challenge levels, but it would be nice if the game warned you what to expect before each of them started.
The art style of the game, though minimalist, is very colorful and suits the overall style. There’s nothing life changing about the graphics, but I do appreciate them, especially the way some level themes hearken back to classic video game systems of yore, such as Nintendo Game Boy and Amber Monochrome DOS monitors. The music, on the other hand, leaves a lot to be desired. The tunes are mellow and uninspired, and truly don’t keep me invested in the gameplay. While it can be said that they suit it, the music is far from a high point.
While I mostly enjoyed my time with Mondrian, I left a bit underwhelmed by the whole experience. I spent a couple hours unlocking a bunch of content — approximately 60% — but didn’t feel that accomplished when I unlocked features. That could be because of the lack of progressive difficulty, or it could be due to the casual aspect of the game. I also wish I had found more video game styles to unlock in my time with the game. More than anything, I suppose I just wanted more — more features, more challenge, a more frantic sense of urgency. That said, there is nothing technically wrong with the game, and for $6.99, it’s a pretty good bargain. If you can’t get enough of puzzle games or just want a fun Steam game for a bargain price, you might consider giving Mondrian a chance.
Review copy provided by publisher
Lantana GamesMondrian: Abstraction In BeautySteam