Review – Kombinera

When I first heard of Kombinera, I was puzzled. No, it wasn’t because of its premise. Puzzle games with a minimalist approach are a dime a dozen in the indie gaming landscape, so that alone wouldn’t have been enough to pique my curiosity. The real reason was the fact that Atari was backing it as its publisher. Yes, Atari, or the company using its name in 2022. I was getting used to seeing them only shove out a ton of “Recharged” versions of old school Atari titles, such as Asteroids, Breakout, and Missile Command… but I wasn’t expecting for them to want to associate themselves with a somewhat artsy indie game. After playing it for a bit, however, I was shocked to realise that such decision actually made total sense.

Kombinera Physics

Use momentum and realistic physics to your advantage in Kombinera. This puzzle is much easier than it looks.

I’m not going to overly praise Kombinera and call it the next big thing, because it isn’t. Its gameplay is unique, and it’s often fun and thought-provoking, but this is yet another indie puzzler in a massively saturated genre. I just wasn’t expecting for it to feel like something Atari could have released as an arcade forty years ago. Between its old-school approach, retro color palette, simple controls and overall unpretentious approach, this could have been a hit puzzle game back in 1982 or so. THIS is what Atari should be focusing on instead of just covering old titles in a vector coat of paint. Even if it’s far from perfect.

Kombinera‘s premise is simple. Your objective in each map is to guide a handful of balls through a maze, until they all touch each other. Once they all mesh together, you complete the puzzle. The thing is, you control all of them at once, and at the same time, on the same direction. To make matters worse, maps are full of traps, as one would expect from a game like this. If any of these balls touch any of the traps, you lose and it’s back to the beginning of the puzzle. You can already imagine that Kombinera is the kind of game where you will fail a lot, curse at the screen often, and rant with others quite a bit, until you realise the solution was actually quite simple and in your face.

Kombinera Colors

The pink ball is able to ignore pink traps. That’s the premise behind Kombinera’s color-based immunity system.

There are other elements that spice things up a bit. Some of the balls you control have colors, which basically give them immunity towards any kind of trap of the same color. You can fuse colored balls together, giving you even more protection against traps scattered throughout the maze. Not exactly groundbreaking, but it does make later puzzles more creative and thought-provoking. Sadly, in order to reach those, you will have to endure an initial batch of admittedly annoying and frustrating puzzles, which suffer from a really inconsistent difficulty curve.

All in all, the game is fun to play, and I somewhat dig its minimalistic approach. I even enjoyed some of its music tracks, on occasion. What I did not care for at all was its handful of confusing (and pointless) cutscenes. Not only are they beyond cryptic, but they bombard players with a crap ton of strobing lights, which could very likely give photosensitive people a seizure. I don’t suffer from these, and even I started to feel a headache with that barrage of colorful flashes in the beginning of the game.


This f****** level… I hate it with a passion.

Kombinera isn’t a puzzle game that will please most fans of the genre. It is really minimalistic, and its difficulty curve is all over the place. Still, it is oddly charming. There is something about its really creative premise, as well as the fact Atari is backing it, that makes it amusing. At times, it does feel like I’m playing a hidden gem from the 80s, a game Atari could have released back in its heyday. It is far from being great, as its flaws are really glaring, but if you’re up for a challenging puzzle game, give Kombinera a shot… unless you’re prone to seizures. Then avoid this one like the plague.


Graphics: 5.0

I am okay with the minimalist visual approach. I am not okay with the seizure-inducing “cutscenes”, on the other hand.

Gameplay: 7.5

This smart puzzle-platforming is easy to learn, but downright impossible to master. You will rage quit a few times, since its difficulty ramps up extremely quickly.

Sound: 6.5

Kombinera‘s soundtrack isn’t bad at all, but there’s not a lot of it to begin with. It is very forgettable.

Fun Factor: 7.5

Kombinera is really simplistic and often frustrating. Still, there’s something about it, and the fact Atari decided to attach its name to it, makes it worth playing. Almost as if you’re playing a forgotten arcade gem from the early 80s.

Final Verdict: 7.0

Kombinera is available now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PC, Switch, and Atari VCS.

Reviewed on Xbox Series S.

A copy of Kombinera was provided by the publisher.