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Quantz gives marble popping a much-needed booster shot

I don't typically use this space to report on casual games for PCs and Macs, but I'm going to make an exception today and provide my impressions on Quantz, a game developed by a small group of industry veterans based in Montreal who recently began an independent studio called Gamerizon. It's a polished and mind-bending 3-D puzzler that boasts beautiful, high-definition graphics (a rarity for casual games, which usually top out at around 800-by-600) and a game mechanic quite unlike anything I've previously encountered.

Players control a cube in the centre of the screen that's covered in colourful balls. An intuitive and precise interface employing only the mouse is used to rotate the cube in any direction so that players can ensure incoming balls land exactly where they want them to on the cube's surface.

The object of the game is to remove the coloured balls by creating groups of four of the same colour, typically (though not always) by shooting balls from the edge of the screen toward the cube. Make a group of four surrounding a different colour ball and it will become a fireball and shoot off the surface before gradually descending, giving the player time to reposition the cube so that it will land on like-colour balls, causing them to disappear. You can create massive, intensely satisfying chains in this way.

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I found it a bit difficult to wrap my brain around the concept at first. One of the game's complicating factors is that loose balls roll around as you rotate the cube. Spin it fast enough (with a flick of your wrist) and these balls will actually fly off the edges before slowly returning to the surface as if pulled by light gravity. This can prove quite frustrating until you get a feel for the game.

Thankfully, I had that feel within about 20 minutes, at which point I couldn't pull myself away from the screen.

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There are three modes, and each has its own unique flavour.

Strategy mode provides players with a set number of balls to shoot at the cube. If you don't make efficient use of them, you'll run out before popping off all the balls, bringing the game to an end.

Puzzle mode, meanwhile, provides players with a series of carefully staged cubes and only a handful of balls to shoot. These balls must be used in a particular way in order to eliminate all the balls on the cube. The challenge here is to be able to see the solution before shooting a single ball.

But my favourite mode is Action, which puts players on a clock and provides limitless balls so they can have at the puzzle however they like. The only goal is to rid the cube of all balls before the timer runs down in each wave.

All three modes are wrapped in a beautiful space-themed aesthetic that features lots of Star Trek-style light flares and alien-cum-elvish iconography. Indeed, Quantz's graphics are about as glossy and polished as casual games get.

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My only issue is that, priced at $22.85 here in Canada, it's a bit pricey for a casual game. Still, the developers claim it boasts some 30 hours worth of puzzles, which, if true, means good value for your money. Plus, players can download a free one hour trial to see if Quantz's innovative ball-blasting action is their cup of tea before digging out their credit cards.

If you're looking for a way to kill a few hours on your PC during what has turned out to be a slow and lazy summer in the world of games, Quantz might do the trick.

Follow me on Twitter: @ chadsapieha

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