Greetings, earthlings, and happy Monday! It is time, once again, to pry open the PopCap vaults, Geraldo Rivera style, in search of long forgotten or just perhaps slightly less hyped PopCap gold. One thing we’ve learned over the years is that people tend to like our games, but they don’t always necessarily know that we made them. Actually, that goes for some of us at PopCap too, especially the more absent-minded and bewildered amongst us. And then there are the games that, sadly, and sometimes unjustifiably, hardly anyone remembers at all — good games that never fully got their due.
Take, for example, the case of Talismania, from 2006. Here we have a fun, challenging, and charming puzzle game, one that — like all the great PopCap games — starts out simple but gets increasingly complex as you progress, and one that, unlike some of our games, doesn’t ask you to match three of anything. Yes, in this game, we explored an entirely different mechanic! Not only that, but you get to play as King Midas, which not even supposedly “cooler” games like Halo let you do. The guy turns stuff into gold, which we’ll take over an uncharismatic, helmeted alien killer any day.
In any event, you play as King Midas, though not on one of his better days. It seems that the King’s Midas Touch has accidentally transformed his daughter, Marygold, into a golden statue. Zeus, slumming from his throne on Mount Olympus to appear in this computer game, has agreed to help Midas transform Marygold back if Midas uses magical talismans to make money to spend on others rather than himself. As you solve each of the game’s puzzles, builders will take the coins you earn to build structures for local townspeople in need, thus fulfilling Midas’ obligation and saving Marygold. Yes, it is a heartwarming tale with a message: That it is better to give away your money rather than hoard it for yourself. And you can follow Midas’ example and give your money to us to play this heartwarming tale for only $9.95.
About the game itself, it has a few cool things going on. You are presented with a grid of hexagonal tiles, inside of which are sections of a pathway. You must rotate the tiles to line up the pathway, while collecting the two or more talisman tiles that appear on each level. As you clear the talismans, you earn coins, with each level requiring a certain amount of coins to complete. Talismania boasts one of PopCap’s cooler musical scores, performed on classical instruments and sounding vaguely Greek-like at times, as well as a goofy cartoon style created by longtime PopCap artist Matt Holmberg. Once you complete the game’s Story mode, you unlock a Hero mode in which you do basically the same thing, but now with a timer.
What Talismania lacks in visceral thrills or action it makes up for in more methodical strategic thinking. Plus, again, you get the valuable lesson that it is better to share your riches than keep them for yourself. We like to think of ourselves not just as game makers, but also as teachers — philosophers, if you will — imparting valuable life lessons upon you as you spin the hexagons around and collect coins. No, it may be no substitute for a college degree, but for anyone who tells you computer games are immoral or a source of social decay, Talismania stands proud as a beacon of wisdom and reason. Just as I was a better person for writing this blog post, you’ll be a better person for playing this game. Congratulations.