In the age of Tetris clones, 1989’s Klax stood out with its unique tile-dropping combo gameplay. Like all successful games, copies were inevitable. Enter Tubes.
Despite the upgraded aesthetics, Tubes plays nearly identically to its inspiration. The game of course provides a few tweaks – science theming and special game pieces being the most significant – but little else shakes it from feeling like a knockoff.
Tubes puts players in the company of Dr. Lanny B. Brilliant, a pompous Einstein wannabe with his heart set on the Nobel Prize. His latest creation is a batch of eight new color-themed elements, which have destabilized and scattered around his lab. Yet hope remains! By synthesizing molecule chains from the atoms, you can reconstruct his elements in time for the prize judging. The future of “Purplium” and “Greenium” rests in your hands.
As expected, molecules are strung together by collecting atoms as they fall out of tubes and depositing them into the receptacle below. Combos don’t award extra points, but pieces can be stacked inside your test tube carrier for strategic placement and quick scoring. Each level presents a new task, ranging from “create x many chains” to “arrange x pieces in y order.” Miss too many pieces, and the game ends. If this all sounds a bit similar to the original item, it’s no coincidence. Tubes takes what works and gives it a colorful and cartoony science theme that has some charm and character, albeit while feeling rehashed.
The big changes affect how the pieces end up in the playing field rather than any twist to the formula. For one, each atom comes down a separate pipe and can be individually sped up. As a result, juggling multiple items around becomes much less of a hassle and a risk than Klax‘s option to speed up everything. Sadly, its benefits are limited: the pipes’ winding patterns make it difficult to tell which pieces go where.
Perhaps more importantly, Tubes adds some much-needed variety to the types of pieces you get. On top of the random colored atoms that drop, filler “Xenon” atoms will clog up the field and can be destroyed with periodic antimatter bombs. Each missed tile generates a “Penalty” piece that will overwhelm you with garbage or limit the number of atoms your beaker can carry at once. And of course, missing those creates even more. These new atoms lend the game an unpredictable spice without becoming too chaotic, at least on the lower difficulties.
“Inoffensive” might describe Tubes the best. Its additions to the Klax formula differentiate it just enough from the original to feel like a separate game, but not enough to distinguish it from other puzzle game clones. At the very least, you have to love Dr. Brilliant. Any scientist lazy enough to name an element “Redium” is alright with me.