Chains is a puzzle game created by independent developer 2DEngine.com, and published by Meridian4. Released in November of 2008, Chains is the first game to be built on 2DEngine.com’s proprietary cross-platform game engine AGen, which they make freely available for non-commercial development.
There is only one direct action to make in Chains: link three or more circles together. Though the means may be simple, the scope of Chains’ gameplay is anything but narrow; this is not a run-of-the-mill “match 3” game. Never mind the smooth, minimalist art style facilitated by vector graphics, or the haunting electro soundtrack; simply consider that each of Chains’ twenty levels presents for players a different objective and a different obstacle. Take, for example, stage 2, “The Gate” (pictured right), wherein the objective is to clear 200 bubbles before their collective weight becomes greater than the counter-weight keeping the gate below them closed. Compare that time-based level with something more relaxed like stage 7, “Gulliver”, where the objective is to clear 100 bubbles by creating 10 chains or less, and it becomes apparent that Chains offers something uniquely challenging from level to level.
This game surprised me. I first heard of Chains when I saw it added to Impulse’s library. Even though it was only $7.99, I wrongly assumed it was just an average “match 3″ game. It wasn’t until Meridian4 put their entire catalogue on sale for 50% off on Steam that I felt compelled to buy the game; I tend to feel like a sucker if there is a game available for $2.49 that I don’t throw money at, just in case it’s good. It’s ironic, then, that Chains was so good that I felt like a sucker for not buying it sooner.