Loopz has, happily, been available for a few years now from B&C Computervisions, but many gamers may not be aware that it's available in cartridge format. This truly is a shame, because Loopz features mindbending gameplay, ear-popping sound effects, and wild background music that make this title one of the highlights of the Lynx library.
Loopz isn't a complicated game, which is a good thing given the fact that the cart doesn't come with instructions. The basic object of Loopz is to link together as many oddly-shaped pieces as possible to create seamless rings, or loopz, without running out of time or all of the three "lives" with which you're given. You can think of the game as a static Tetris, where players are in complete control of the entire screen, but it's actually much more similar to "castle fortification" stage in Rampart. In Rampart, players must place oddly-shaped pieces of tile around their castles within fifteen seconds in order to build a castle keep and continue to the next stage; Loopz is basically that building stage lifted and placed in its own cartridge. It sounds like a terrible idea for a game, but Loopz is actually incredibly addictive and fun to play.
Gamers will probably begin with the Chain Loopz game that is the cart's standard setting. Each Loopz board consists of a grid which is sized according to the level selected. The easier levels (0-3) feature large, closely-spaced grids upon which oddly-shaped pieces can be easily placed; it is, conversely, that much harder to place pieces quickly on the more widely-spaced grids of the higher levels.
The difficulty of each level in Loopz is raised by decreasing the playing field, complicating the playing pieces, and by shortening time allowed to use a piece. Easier levels also have a higher proportion of corner pieces and straight lengths which enable players to construct the loopz easily.
In higher levels, as in Rampart, the playing pieces become both larger and more oddly-shaped, creating a challenge that will certainly tax the best players' gaming abilities. I've heard some complaints about the fact that difficulty does not increase past the ninth level, but as I've yet to make it beyond level two, I don't think I'll have to worry about that little problem for some time to come. Fortunately, the "preview" window in the lower left-hand portion of the screen alerts players to upcoming gaming pieces, just as in Tetris, so you'll have some time to think about where you're going to fit that wild "Z" shaped piece on the board.
Loopz also provides uncommonly deep gameplay through a plethora of options that will delight the finicky.
Don't like standard Chain Loopz? Try Match Loopz, where the object is to complete the symmetry of various oddly-shaped loopz with spare parts. Up to forty-six levels of the Match Loopz game can also be selected by code. Games are often beautiful to watch, but impossible to play: just try filling in three quarters of that weird cross-shaped loopz!
Expert gamers may also want to try the Target Loopz option, in which players must achieve the set number of points per round. Because only a small number of points are awarded for each completed loop, you'll likely lose all your lives long before reaching the target score -- even in the lowest levels of this particular game.
Loopz doesn't feature the Lynx's flashiest or most impressive graphics, but this isn't much of a problem given the game's theme. There isn't much that you can do to vary the uniformity of a game played with linear shapes, although the game does provide players with the option of playing with sold or outline pieces. The playing fields are distinct without being cluttered, and the colour pallette of Loopz is easy on the eyes. Little graphical bonuses, such as the "pac-men" that you can use to eat up errant loopz in higher levels, add touches of whimsy to an already-delightful game.
Both the sound effects and background music in this game are incredible! Loopz offers players three quirky background tunes which are perfectly suited to the feel of the game and are, frankly, superior to almost everything else that you've heard on the Lynx. Gamers who are distracted (or irritated) by the tunes can, however, turn them off at the options screen.
Sound effects can also be turned off, but you won't want to. The digitized scream with which you're "rewarded" when you lose all your turns is worth the price of admission alone.
The title screen of Loopz indicates that it's an evaluation version, but it's hard to see what changes HandMade Software might have made to their game to improve it. Although it's often pointless to speculate on the "whys" of Atari's business practices, it's clear that administration didn't get to play Loopz in any form; if they had, they would have seen that HandMade Software clearly had another winner on its hands and released it immediately. Loopz is an outstanding game that only strengthens the Lynx's incredible library of puzzlers, and is, frankly, a "must-buy." Bruce Caruso of "B&C Computervisions" is currently offering Loopz at a reduced price when purchased with his other Lynx "prototype" cartridges. Run -- don't walk -- to the nearest phone and place an order if you don't already have this amazing title in your collection. It's one of the few games that actually exceed gaming expectations, and is a title to which you'll undoubtedly return in years to come.