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Reviewed: Aha!
Author: Stuart Macdonald       Date: August 27th 1999
Page: 2

Going for the shortest name in gaming history, but forgetting about Z, Aha! is a game of logic, skill and forward-thinking. If you are lacking in any one of these criteria you will fail miserably at Aha!, and will no doubt be shouting abuse at your computer by the time you get your 5th terribly low score, alt and tabbing back to the web site constantly to see if your eyes really did deceive you, and the person who is sitting high and mighty at the top of the high-score table really did get that 'impossibly high' score. Of course they did, because you just aren't cut out for the game and don't have what it takes to think about your actions and consequences. But of course, humans being humans, we all think that we are better than everyone else which inevitably leads to a 6th score of nearly zero. The basic concept of the game is to clear related blocks from the playing field by the maximum numbers possible. Fiendishly simple, but very hard to master.

It's 'da shapes theme...
The harder railroad theme

Being very much like hardly any other retail game, Aha! is very hard to explain, but of course I can explain it because I am better than everyone else. First off, you have to choose a 'theme'. Themes are Aha!'s big attraction in that they completely change the way that the game is played. Four themes are supplied with Aha!, and I am told that the developers are aiming to make a new theme monthly and will be taking suggestions for new themes. Themes basically customize the game by using different graphics for each game piece, and by changing the ways in which the pieces can be removed from the playing field.

To score points in Aha! you need to remove as many pieces as is humanly possible from the playing field at one time by finding groups, moving your mouse over the group, and clicking on it (yes, it really is that easy!). Unless you have a brain the size of a small North American country, you'll probably need a calculator to work out the score you get for removing a certain amount of bricks. The formula for scoring is (n-2)^2 where n is the number of pieces removed from the playing field at any one time. Quite smart in that the scoring get progressively steeper as you take away more pieces at one time, urging you to not just take the easy groups of 3.

My favoite - the cartoons theme...
..and finally the Balloons theme

Of course a lot of the promised features of the game rest on the developers and if they can be bothered to kick out a new theme monthly, but if they really do live up to their promise, the possibilities of this game could really end up bigger than Prince Nazim's ego. Here's a quick summary of the four themes included with the game.

First off, the Geometry theme is the default theme, and is of the downwards variety in that the block fall downwards as you remove ones under them. Geometry is probably the easiest to get your head round (well, Cartoons also because it is downwards) so the Geometry theme is recommended for the younger people who don't want much of a challenge.

The Cartoons theme is next, and as I've already mentioned is basically the same as the Geometry theme. Well, not much to say really apart from this one probably comes above the Geometry theme for the younger games player because of it's great animation and snazzy sounds.

All the options
The MASSIVE large field size

Next up is the rather tricky Railroad theme which is of the assmebly variety. In it, you need to group pieces by joining different railroad pieces together. This is very hard and will require a lot of brain power. Better for the more patient variety, the Railroad theme really is challenging and will keep you going for ages. Here's where a slight niggle comes in. You can get massive scores just by clicking in a random fashion about the board which the less patient of us will tend to do in the Railroad theme. I don't know how the developers could have stopped this, but it is rather annoying seeing people up the top of the score board who obviously just clicked anywhere.

That slight grunt aside, the last theme included with the game is the Balloons theme. Not quite as tricky as the Railroad theme, and not as well animated at the cartoons theme, the Balloons theme doesn't really come very highly recommended. It's also annoying when you forget that the Balloons theme is an upwards one and make wrong moves, although these can be rectified using Aha!'s nifty undo button.

Remember that with all themes, you can choose a playing field size from the relatively easy small to the impossibly hard large. You can also customize the board size to your own preferences... nifty if you are good at the small grid size, and awful at the medium. You can also choose how many different piece types you want on the field which leads to higher scores if you decrease if from the default (and highest) five.

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Added:  Friday, August 27, 1999
Reviewer:  Stuart Macdonald
Page: 2/3

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