Do you remember the feeling of anxiety that early puzzle games could instill in you, the feeling that in some abstract way the fate of the entire world hinged on fitting the right Tetris piece into place? Remember being completely absorbed by the game - whose subject matter didn't refer to anything in the outside world - simply because of the challenge, and because it taunted your cerebral limits by speeding up the pace and setting inhuman time limits? Well, Argos Gamesware's Ungaria doesn't really possess any of that nail-biting intensity that its puzzle-game ancestors had. Some could still argue that playing it is a challenging endeavor - unfortunately, though, that's not saying a whole lot.
The gameplay is as follows: You begin with an empty grid and are dealt a finite series of colored squares. Each square is divided into four sections, each of which can be one of four colors. The object of the game is to fill the empty grid by placing the squares so that their bordering colors match. The squares can be rotated with the click of a mouse button or mirrored by pushing a button up at the top of the screen. More points are awarded if you match two or more sides of a square to a group of squares. And if you place a square and match four sides - the crowning achievement - you accomplish ungaria and receive the maximum points. A bonus time counter ticks away relentlessly at the side of the screen, and the less time you take to make a move, the more points you get. What happens if your time runs out? Absolutely nothing! If you're stuck on a move, go ahead and grab dinner and a movie because you've got plenty of time. Of course, there's always the option of discarding the unusable piece. Other game options include increasing the grid size and increasing the number of colors available to each square.
That feeling of panic, that mirthful feeling of suffocation you get when you play a game like Lemmings or Tetris, just isn't there in Ungaria, but it's strangely addictive at times. The graphics are colorful but not too exciting, and there's a groovy bossanova-style soundtrack. But the gameplay still doesn't seem to provide a sense of accomplishment. This game is a mind-puzzle with a sort of solitaire edge, and devoted puzzle-game fans will probably have some fun with it. But as far as the excitement factor goes, Ungaria may leave you starved.