Ms Germinator is the follow up to Germinator; a “bubble popping game” which took the concept that games like Puzzle Bobble started a little further – applying it to germs and adding the ability to merge instead of stick together. It was my first review for The Vita Lounge and scored quite well, even though there were a few things they could definitely improve. Almost six months later and Creat Studios dropped a sequel; but will it be an improvement or a too-soon-to-make-a-sequel type flop? Let’s have a look.
Ms Germinator is comprised of five game modes, each having their own unique style of play. The modes you can choose from are Story, Puzzle, Arcade, Duel and the newest mode; Challenge.
Like its predecessor, the core modes are “Story” and “Puzzle”. Each of these modes takes place in one of five “areas” – each with fifteen levels of increasing difficulty (seventy-five levels each). You progress through these levels by combining five antibodies of the same flavor (denoted by their colour) to cause them to explode and kill all the germs they touch. Story mode is mainly reflex oriented; while puzzle mode seems to be more about problem solving and pre-thought.
Different germs have different skills you can apply using a full special meter; a bonus to help you with some of the trickier situations. Once your meter is filled using successful germ-pops, you can activate a special germ with the trigger buttons and shoot it with “x” (or the touchscreen). Upon its destruction it will unleash its special ability (or in a few cases, on release) and will hopefully help you beat the level quicker by eliminating a ton of the required invaders.
The levels have an unspoken time-limit, as the liquid level at the bottom rises every few seconds until you either destroy all the gummy germs, or a germ touches the top of the container and ends the game. In each level you’re given black gummy germs to exterminate (the invaders) as well as three special stars you can also choose to attack. The non-black germs (the antibodies) are the explosives and when they pop they take everything they touch. There are also sticky and bouncy panels, as well as teleporters and spikes that are present in some levels as obstacles/helpers. Because of their blocking ability as well as their other abilities, they can either be an advantage or a hindrance. On the flip-side there are pill-shaped explosives (activated by coming into contact with a germ) and pulsating “contagious” germs (which take out all they touch in a chain) which are only there to help. For such a simple game, there are a lot of moving parts to this equation.
Also like in Germinator, the difficulty goes up the further in story or puzzle mode you get; with more types of germs or more obstacles being added in order to complicate the process. Ms Germinator has also added a bunch of new colours not present in the original – each with their own unique special attack and appearing in their own tutorial on how to use them. Real mastery of the game comes from learning the various special abilities and using them to destroy not only the black germs, but also the three stars present in each level. This type of completion will earn you a few trophies if done across all the puzzle and story modes – but it’s also great training for another mode you’ll probably be playing a lot of; Arcade.
Arcade mode is an infinite run of coloured germs and gummy germs, scrolling upward as you try to kill them off. Once started, it runs as long as you can keep the germs from touching the top of the screen – the point being that you can keep playing as long as you keep the pace. Of all the modes, this one is the most random and reflex-based. There are two types of arcade; outbreak, which is more like story mode without the liquid, “scene” or an end – and pandemic, which is the equivalent of every germ you shoot being a special germ (they go right through everything but their own colour).
Duel mode lets you play against the AI, going to best of 5 or 9 rounds if you like – or competing in Outbreak or Pandemic. The differences from Arcade mode lie in the fact that the popping of germs will now drop black gummy germs on the opponent’s side, and there’s no “rise” from liquid – just germs. This mode has three difficulties; rookie, princess and Ms Germinator. I’ll let you guess which one’s the most difficult…
New in this version is the “Challenge” mode which pits you with a unique puzzle every week, having you compete against those in your region to win the title of “Champion”. There’s a rankings board for this mode as well, allowing you to compare your best shot, best time and best total score with everyone, your friends – or even just those near you.
The graphics are simple but effective – nothing special here but not an eye-sore either. The setting for the levels has actually improved slightly as the backgrounds now relate to the area (though to be honest, it’s not that big of a deal). The sound is still mind-melting; with music that’ll make your ears bleed and the same sound effects present in the first (from what I can tell). Like the original, this is definitely a mute-and-play title for me… I think I lasted about ten minutes with the sound up. Controls are pretty much the same as the original, so if you’ve played that they’re second nature. That said, they’re not very complex – if you’re just picking up a Germinator title for the first time with this you’ll probably be well on your way to mastering it in about an hour.
Ms Germinator improves on the original in most areas, while taking a step back in a few others. The stars are a huge improvement in my opinion; what was originally a game of “try and get a higher score and see if it qualifies for three stars” has become a somewhat simple and straightforward task of simply popping them like germs. The menus and options have definitely improved – but there’s still no way to go directly to the main menu from in-game. The all-new Challenge mode has been added – and is easily one the most fun parts of the game relating to replay value; but it’s definitely not the online multiplayer that we’ve wanted since the original.
It seems they’ve also removed local play in this sequel, having been there in Germinator’s “Duel” mode – though that’s not something I particularly care about, I hear a lot of users complaining about a lack of ad-hoc on Vita games recently. A bit more of the bad is the addition of more germ types, which only seem to make this a little less casual and a bit more difficult – something we definitely don’t need considering the paltry ninety-seven 100% completion achievers of the nearly 8,000 PSNProfiles users that have the original.
Logic on this one dictates that if you’ve never played or owned a Germinator game then this is the one for you; cross-buy, upgraded features, unique play-modes and more options are now included in this version for the same price as the original. That said, a lot of you probably have the original still rattling around on your Vita from when it was free on PS+ (or just bought it ‘cause you liked the idea of this game type 6 months ago) – to you I say; maybe next time.