Tensor v1.13- by Chris Williams

Games in the world of OS/2 always seem to fall into one end or another of two extremes. On the high end, they are true innovations capable of taking the market by storm with their fresh ideas, flashy graphics, and capabilities that show off the strengths of OS/2. On the low end, they come out looking not much better than a thrown-together applet that someone decided to charge money for. While these are the extremes of the spectrum, Tensor, developed by Palet Software, Inc. and published by Advanced Idea Machines, Inc (AIM), seems to fit the lower end much better than the higher.

The Game

As far as puzzle type games are concerned, Tensor is actually fun to play. If you're looking for Klingons to shoot, you'll have to find them elsewhere -- think of Tensor as a combination of Mine Sweeper, Chinese Checkers, and the old Reversi game that used to come with OS/2 2.1. The object of the game is to clear a "quota" of pieces from the checkerboard-like game area (GIF, 16k) before time runs out. Clicking a square with the left mouse button attracts pieces to that square while clicking with the right mouse button repels pieces.

Pieces are removed by getting like pieces to collide with each other on an open square, or by getting pieces of any type to move to a square with a "pit". If pieces that are not alike collide, you are penalized in points and by having more pieces added to the board. Bonus points are awarded for getting three or more like pieces to collide with a single click. The more like pieces you can get to collide, the higher the bonus. If you have accumulated "bombs" (by merging three or more pieces), you can also "bomb" a piece by clicking directly on it.

On higher levels, the pit squares move around with every turn. Moving barriers also show up later on. Once you reach these levels, it becomes almost impossible to clear the board, but since the object is to clear a level-determined quota of pieces within a certain time, not the entire game board, the main challenge of the game is a race against the clock.

Blemishes...

Installing Tensor is easy enough. The installation program (SETUPOS2.EXE -- both Windows and OS/2 versions ship on a single floppy disk) brings up a window that allows you to change the directory where the game files will be placed. Here is where the program starts to show its blemishes. The installation program creates a new "Games" folder on your desktop with an icon that looks like it came from the Calvin and Hobbes archives. It ignores the default Games folder that is normally installed on most OS/2 systems. While this works if you don't have anything else installed, think what would happen if every new OS/2 game created its own folder named "Games" on the desktop. Why not name the folder "Tensor" or "Advanced Ideas", or just install to the existing Games folder, creating the folder if it didn't exist?

There is very little hard copy documentation (a 12 page photocopied booklet with one 2 inch square illustration) and no on-line help to speak of for Tensor. In fact, all you get is a "Quick Help" panel not much bigger than the "About..." information panels you see on most applications. The information in the "Quick Help" panel is also about as useless for help as those other programs' "About..." panels. This means you don't really have any help while playing the game.

Thankfully, there is an on-line book that is installed along with the game. Unfortunately, as you read through it, you will notice many misspelled words and poorly constructed sentences. The overall feel of the product is one of being very rough around the edges. However, there is at least enough to get you started with playing the game if you're willing to take the time to carefully study it.

And the packaging that Tensor comes in is unbearable! This is software that should be shipped in a plain brown wrapper -- not because the contents are offensive, but because the box design is so rough that you'll be embarrassed to be seen receiving it.

But...

Playing Tensor, especially at the higher levels, is definitely a challenge. The game is fast paced and you have to make precise mouse movements and know which button is best to click to be good at it. I tried the game on a desktop system and my ThinkPad. I found the TrackPoint mouse on the ThinkPad to be a nice advantage, providing the benefits of a mouse and the flexibility of a joystick. Your preferences may vary. Having the game's sounds turned on slowed its performance by quite a bit on both of my systems. I also found some of the sounds to be a distraction. Some of them make you wonder if they were lifted straight from a Star Trek sound archive. Again, the concept of the game may be original, but this is definitely not a polished product.

Conclusions

Overall, I would rate Tensor as fun to play, but not exciting. It's definitely not yet ready for prime time sales as a final product. There is much work that needs to be redone, especially in terms of documentation and overall polish. If you like applet-style puzzle games with a twist and are willing to put up with its shortcomings, Tensor is probably worth giving a try. If you want highly polished game software that poses serious competition for the rest of the gaming world and provides a compelling reason to tell your friends to use OS/2, pass right on by Tensor without giving it a second thought.
 * Tensor
by Palet Software, Inc.
published by Advanced Idea Machines, Inc.
MSRP: US$24.95
Chris Williams has been actively involved with OS/2 systems for the past six years. A former IBM employee, OS/2 Ambassador, and long time member of Team OS/2, he is currently a PC and network specialist for Perot Systems Corporation.

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