Posted by Robert Ramsey
Best left in the incubator
We’ve seen our fair share of bubble-puzzle games over the last few years, each attempting to put a new spin on the genre, be it through engaging art styles or subtle but original gameplay tweaks. Germinator attempts the latter, requiring you to match up coloured germs in order to make them expand and explode, hopefully taking out the surrounding microbes with them.
It’s a simple concept that works well enough, although it’s not a massive leap forward for the format. The game still ends when the level fills up with the nasty blighters, and you’ll be firing off your own coloured germs one by one via a cannon located at the top of the screen. Suffice to say anyone that’s tried a bubble-puzzler before will settle into this one with ease.
Thankfully, Germinator’s core gameplay is satisfying for the most part. Building germs to bursting point then watching them detonate and destroy their surrounding comrades-in-illness is good fun, made all the better by the tortured expressions that they make. Indeed, in the world of Germinator, the vessels of disease have faces – much like in many of the toilet cleaning commercials that you see on TV.
Even the Germinator himself has a face, and he’s the one who’ll be guiding you through the story mode, although calling it such gives the impression that there’s an actual plot. In reality, the mode simply sees you tackling one set of germs after another, arranged in various formations, and really just serves as an introduction to the game’s mechanics.
Elsewhere, you can attempt to survive a non-stop onslaught of bugs in arcade mode, or take on some particularly tricky stages in puzzle mode. Both serve their purpose, although arcade mode has a tendency to stack unfair odds against you, proving to be quite a challenge even for more advanced players in later stages. Puzzle mode on the other hand is a matter of popping germs in just the right places, but it offers up neither the hectic pace nor the satisfaction of the other options.
Alongside the single-player smatterings, you can infect your friends through local or online multiplayer. Again, both work as intended, and adding in a human opponent transforms the already quick-paced puzzler into a tense affair.
Unfortunately, despite getting a lot right, Germinator manages to misfire on several key points. For starters, the game’s style isn’t an attractive one. The subject matter of killing off germs seems relatively unappealing in itself, and while the title is colourful, there’s a definite cheap and tacky feel to everything from the menus to the art design. It’s something that has far more in common with a low budget mobile game, as opposed to a full price downloadable release on a console.
And this is where things start to fall apart. For a puzzler to succeed, it needs to be addictive and have that ‘one more go’ quality. If you look at the most successful bubble games, namely something like Bust-a-Move, it has an air of quality and attention to detail that keeps you coming back for more. Germinator has nothing of the sort, remaining memorable not because of what it does right, but because of its brash and ugly styling.
The audio is similarly bad, sporting a slew of low-quality sounding tunes that do nothing to enhance the experience. However, the sound effects aren’t quite as poor, providing some nasty, squishy pops and splurges.
Playing Germinator on the big screen can be a little off putting, despite the game displaying at a 1080p resolution. As previously mentioned, the game doesn’t present itself well, and seeing everything in detail doesn’t do it any favours. It’s a good job that the title is also available on the PlayStation Vita, then, where it finds a much more accommodating home. The lack of load times in the portable release make it a good choice for some quick fire gaming sessions, though it doesn't necessarily stand out from other mobile titles that you may already own.
Despite solid gameplay mechanics, Germinator is let down tremendously by poor presentation and a tacky, annoying art style. It’s a game better suited to the burgeoning mobile market, making the asking price seem a little too steep for what you’re getting – especially since there’s no cross-buy option.