All of Manowar’s naval influences are just dressing for a fiendishly challenging game. Demanding intelligence, forward planning, and exacting control of the game’s physics, this little puzzler will have you eager to master its challenges – while also making you feel like you want to walking the plank.
Know the ropes
Like all good puzzlers, Manowar establishes its premise quickly. You are on a ship filled with cannon balls, and it’s your job to get rid of them all. This is done by rolling them into various cannons that are dotted around the ship, then blasting away the offending ballast.
Tilting your device left and right sees the ship rock in the same direction, with the balls dutifully rolling until they hit an obstruction or are loaded into a cannon. Firing one of these loaded guns causes all the other balls to jump, giving them a chance to hop over any obstacles, or to another deck of the boat. The controls are tight, with all of the multiple balls reacting exactly as you would expect – perfect for the game, even if you do look like an idiot playing on the train.
Manowar’s stages quickly leap from simple training areas to complex puzzles as you try to rock, roll, and blast your balls into a cannon. But, unlike some games that spike in difficulty and then return to an even keel, Manowar’s increase marks the trajectory for the rest of the game.
Me timbers are shivering
Every new puzzle element is layered on top of others. A single stage may have decks that balls can jump up through, cannons that cause certain colored balls to jump, and trap doors that open and close with each blast – Manowar has no qualms about making you consider all of these elements at once, while also discovering new ways to manipulate established mechanics.
It’s fascinating and infuriating as you are treated to a puzzle that you deliberate over for what feels like an hour, before getting one that clicks in just a few tries. Not because it is easier or harder, but just because.
For me the most frustrating levels were those that relied on precise control of my device’s tilt. When you can see (what you believe) to be a solution, but struggle to test the hypothesis because you keep messing up the execution, it’s hard not feel like keelhauling your phone. Though, on the flip-side, finally solving one of these puzzle is all the sweeter for this.
Between the devil and the deep blue sea
When Manowar has you juggling multiple gates, floors, and colors is when it is at its best – and worst. It is a puzzle game that demands you learn its rules, work out how to exploit those rules, and be able to physically manipulate the game perfectly to execute your plan. Intelligent and frustrating, this is a puzzle game for people who can be smart and patient… oddly it seems I can only be one at a time.