There are always two routes when taking inspiration from an earlier puzzle title - add stuff or take stuff away. While the latter option sounds rubbish, sometimes the best course is to refine an idea rather than just bolt the kitchen sink on the side and hope it sticks.
It’s this latter approach that Shamrock Games has taken with Molecules, removing a major feature of the Puzzle Bobble style games while adding very little to the genre.
The aim is to match three colours by firing balls from a cannon/paddle at the bottom of the screen into a group of descending colours at the top before they reach your position.
Helpfully, you can choose which ball to fire from a random selection of three that are replenished after each shot. Things get slightly more tactical when power-ups are thrown into the mix, but overall the game is as simple as they come.
A different angle
Unlike in Molecules's forebears, the angle of your shots cannot be changed. Instead, you move the paddle across the screen and fire vertically into the group of amassed balls. As half of the frustration with these types of match-three games comes from getting the angle wrong, it’s refreshing to be able to identify shots quickly.
Indentifying is one thing, but making a match is another altogether.
While it is a lot easier to aim, firing is stunted by some very sticky controls. Molecules doesn’t mind you moving while its smooth animations are running, but it does have an issue with selecting your next ball and firing.
Selecting the right ball is made even harder by one of the worst colour palettes in recent memory. The bright colours look fairly attractive at first, but the difference between the pink, red and purple balls is ridiculously hard to make out against the sickly green background.
It’s not rocket science
Despite plenty of missed shots and confusing colours, Molecules still manages to be far too easy. The balls drop at such a slow pace, and the power-ups are so common, that I often found myself firing balls at an empty screen.
To the game’s credit, the ‘campaign’ is very lengthy and adds a bit of variety to the gameplay by introducing special conditions. The puzzle boards are the strongest of these moments, and are always enjoyable when they turn up.
Whether you’ll have the patience to play through the masses of levels to reach them though is another matter.