Welcome back to Click To Play , the new-old regular series that takes a look at a new browser-based curio each week to further the fine art of procrastination. We accept absolutely no responsibility if you get caught at work/school/uni/on the loo gloriously wasting time on the games listed here when you should be working.
This week: Transmission
Educational games are nearly always rubbish, right? And yet, I've been playing Transmission -- a simple, elegant puzzler created by the British Science Museum to help teach people about the history of electronic communication -- for over an hour.
It starts off slowly, perhaps too slowly, really hammering home the objective of "light up of the boxes". Essentially, in each stage, you have to send little glowing data packets to little empty receiver boxes, dragging and dropping linear connections, and taking care not to cross the streams. It's very simple to begin with, but isn't too long before you end up with bonus objectives, jumbles of data nodes, and seemingly too few polygons of data for all of your receivers. Circles can transmit, squares cannot, filling little superscript stars can earn you bonuses, and so will ensuring you use the minimum number of transmissions.
Don't let the educational association fool you -- Transmission's only real connection to its academic roots come in the form of little blurbs that preface each section. It's more a case of being an intriguing puzzle game that just so happens to be on the Science Museum's website than an actual learning tool. But it is addictive, if a little uneven. The difficulty curve is more of a difficulty squiggle, and you'll find yourself breezing through several puzzles only to get stuck on one out of the blue. The sound design is filled with the trills, warbles, and bleeps of the Information Age, from dial tones to modem squawks, but it can grate after a while, especially if you're stuck on a particular puzzle.
But I've come back to Transmission many times over the space of the past few days, dipping in and out here and there while I wait for a video to render or munch upon a snack. And that's sort of what Click To Play is all about. Transmission is free and fun and frequently infuriating, there are 70 levels to dip into, with 146 stars to collect, and like all of the best puzzle games, I'm pretty sure I've torn out a fair amount of my own hair since starting the game, and kicked myself countless numbers of times too. I like the little light show that you get at the end of each puzzle, and the bassy fuzz that accompanies a made connection. It's quite satisfying, really.