W*H*B stands for Width times Height times Breadth, which is the equation for a cuboid, the object that you control in the game - you can thank Kev Thacker for that maths lesson as e provided the name. W*H*B is, fairly obviously, inspired by the flash game Bloxorz and the Sony PSN title Cuboid; you control a "cuboid", a rectangular block, two units long, but one unit high and one unit wide. The object of the game is to topple and roll that cuboid so that you finish standing up on one end on top of the exit tile into which your cuboid will slide in a rather satisfying manner. Of course, the idea is to do this in the least number of moves. You're provided with a target number to aim for.
The levels themselves are presented as an isometric grid of tiles. Luckily you can't roll off the edge as you cane in Bloxorz which reduces the frustration a little. There are a number of special tiles: buttons (soft and hard - you need to be upright), teleports, splitters, and glass tiles that prevent you from going "end on" as they are too fragile - you can cross them if you split your cuboid though! There are also broken tiles which will crumble and disappear if you touch them. Since you'll almost certainly get stuck on some of the later levels of the game there's a reset button to press to start the level again.
W*H*B is well presented with a nice title screen and a useful game guide which describes all of the tiles that you'll encounter. You'll need to read this - it would have saved me hours of frustration! I spent ages trying again and again to complete a level before I realised that it was possible to control each half of the cuboid separately once you've split it in half. You simply press the action key to change to switch control from one half to another. The title screen also provides you with the option of entering a pass code that is provided when you complete a level. This will allow you to jump to the next level without having to replay all the earlier ones.
IT'S HIP TO BE SQUARE
The graphics work very well and the animations of the cuboid rotating and tumbling looks just as it should. The isometric view looks good and is well suited to the game. After a while the graphics do lack a little excitement after a while. It would be nice to have a little more variety, although the risk would be a loss of clarity. It would also have been nice if there was some animation of the broken tiles crumbling as you cross them, but these are minor criticisms. There's some pretty good sound from Mister Beep too - there's the required clacking as the cuboid topples and rolls, but also level start and level complete jingles and most impressively a good tune for the title screen. I have a strange fondness for the sound of the cuboid splitting which I can't quite put my finger on.
I had a hard time coming to terms with the controls. This, I think, was due to the isometric nature of the display and the default keys. I struggled with the default key layout as like life, I found myself constantly going in directions I didn't intent to go in. It's possible to choose different keys based on you own personal preference and once I'd done this I found that I was able to control the cuboid more consistently.
Like all the best puzzle games, the idea behind W*H*B sounds simple enough. However, once you start playing the game you quickly realise that things aren't going to be quite as straight forward as you thought, especially as you get to some of the more fiendish later levels. The success of a game like this depends on a successful balancing act between frustration versus that "just one more game" playability. It's great to play a game that has hit the nail bang on the head, so much so that I'm finding it difficult to write this review without constantly going back for another go.
Level design is also critical factor in the success of a game such as this. It would be possible to ruin a great idea with poor and uninspired layouts but I'm happy to report that the challenges posed are interesting and varied, thanks to the World of Spectrum forum users; levels were designed by Jumping Stack, Karl Gillott, Mulder and Znorxman as well as the author. Supposedly, the idea is to complete each level in the least number of moves. There seems to be no incentive to do so - just complete one level to get onto the next which in itself is incentive enough and there's no high score or penalty for taking too many moves.
Although this game hardly pushes the envelope of puzzle games into new territory, it is a polished and fun little puzzler which will keep you distracted for a good while. It'll keep niggling at your consciousness, demanding that you give that next difficult level, just one more go.