Mortar Melon - iconPhysic puzzlers are rather popular, a key reason why so many have released on the eShop.  I definitely enjoy a good physics game now and then.  Mortar Melon falls more into the okay category though.  It has several things going for it but, as you’ll see, some design issues hold this Wii U port back.

Your goal is to safely launch a watermelon from a mortar, reaching the exit while collecting scattered fruit along the way.  Say what you will about the title, but at least it nails the gameplay description.  The puzzling layouts call for a good amount of strategy, especially if you’re a completionist who doesn’t want to leave any fruit behind. The level designs are fairly interesting, being varied in terms of harmful obstacles, launching mechanics, and overall magnitude. They’re further interesting from a visual perspective.

The graphics look better than these still screenshots indicate.  They can’t convey the subtle animations, like vegetation bobbing in the breeze, or insects crawling across the front of the screen. Everything also runs generally smooth.  While more backgrounds would’ve been positive additions, the effective use of layers makes the vibrant presentation stand out.  Likewise the music fares nicely.  It’s pleasant and relaxing, helping to minimize potential frustration on tough puzzles.  Satisfying environmental sound effects like birds and water add to the immersive quality.

Controls are where the game starts taking a cut and dry dive.  The choice of traditional or touch input is admirable, but each has their own concerns.  The stylus definitely has issues with responsiveness. It’s rather sensitive, and as a result the mortar tends to move after the stylus is lifted.  Precision is especially needed in the later levels, something the stylus control is incompatible with.  Button controls do have precision, making them my preferred choice.  They’re not as comfortable however, and slow.  The d-pad isn’t supported either, an undeniable mistake.  No matter the chosen method, you’ll likely wish an option to zoom out was included.  Panning the screen for larger puzzles is clunky, and not ideal.

These control quirks might not have been as bothersome if the game wasn’t so linear.  However you’re forced to play the levels in strict order.  A means to skip around, even on a limited basis, is absent.  Rather than locking each subsequent level by default, why aren’t the stars used to unlock them based on how many have been earned?  The repetition of having to play certain levels at length continuously can have a definite negative impact on your enjoyment.

One fun extra that’s been included is online leaderboards.  They’re comprehensive, but curiously limited to a timed challenge mode which is initially locked.  Mostly empty a week after release, it strongly suggests that players aren’t responding to the present implementation.

Overall I’d have to say this linear game is just a decent offering for genre fans only.  There is definite challenging fun amidst the control flaws, but you need to be the patient type.  I did beat the game, but with only 75% or so of the stars acquired.  The thought of 100% completion gives me trepidation.   I’d like to see a patch improve Mortar Melon, elevating it to the “Melony Goodness” it’s striving for.  Will I see you on the empty leaderboards?

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