Apparently there is no genre that mashing music into doesn’t make better. Sentris is a music/puzzle game with a Kickstarter campaign and a playable prototype that was recently released to all backers. Nothing fully explains a gaming idea like finally getting some hands-on time, and the Sentris prototype shows a very clever puzzle game that has the side effect of creating music as you play. The reward for solving a puzzle is much more satisfying when accompanied by a tune you’ve created, even if that’s an accidental byproduct of wrangling the pieces into place.
The basics are pretty simple. You’ve got a circle with a grid inside, sixteen squares around four squares deep. It’s filled with rows of color and you drop blocks into the circle as it rotates at a set speed, trying to fill in the rows with the correct colored blocks. Each block you place plays a note when it passes by the line running from top to center, creating music as squares get filled in. It doesn’t take long for things to get complicated, though, as the blocks you drop into the puzzle become longer lines of color and you’ve got multiple patterns to choose from that represent different instruments. Drop a block on top of another and it’ll push it down to the next row, and there’s no penalty for pushing a block (or set of blocks) off the board through the center. The trick then becomes to think several moves ahead, line up colors, keep a good plan for knocking the right lines into place when you need them deeper into the circular grid, and enjoy the music you’re making along the way. It sounds far more complicated than it actually is, and because there’s no Lose state it’s actually fairly relaxing. The object is to make the player enjoy the process, rather than impose artificial restrictions. That doesn’t mean the puzzle aspect is easy, though.
The Sentris demo is both properly maddening as a puzzle and nicely relaxing as a music toy, which makes for a fun combination. Playing around with the different colors and instruments yields some fun sounds, so even when you completely screw up the plan to drop a long blue line into the blocks a couple rows deep in the circle it doesn’t feel like a punishment to have to recreate the setup. The prototype is available to all backers (and I’m feeling kind of guilty only donating $1 just to see it) so head on over and throw a few coins Sentris’s way. It’s an interesting gaming experiment that’s already fun to play, and an excellent foundation for a full-featured bout of musical puzzling.