Two years ago Dr. Eureka was a surprise hit with my gaming group. We were like mad scientists trying to mix the correct molecules into test tubes. It was a straightforward and fun real-time puzzle featuring top-notch components.
Its sequel, Dr. Beaker, once again is impeccably produced: the beakers and stirrers look like they’re straight from a laboratory. Would Dr. Beaker be a game-changing sequel like The Godfather II? Or would it be a huge dud like The Sting II? And will I ever be able to reference a movie from this century?
How To Play
Each player receives a beaker full of marbles and a stirrer. A card is turned over and everybody simultaneously tries to move the marbles in the beaker to match the pattern depicted on the card. Like Dr. Eureka, the object of Dr. Beaker is to be the first player to match your components to the current card.
Players are only allowed to move marbles via the central area and by using the stirrer. You can’t push marbles over each other or shake the beaker to pop marbles up and down. Instead, you must push and drag marbles in and out of the center while rotating the beaker dish to place the marbles in the correct spaces.
The first player to match the card takes it. In a four-player game, the first player to collect three cards wins. Lower player counts require fewer cards to win.
Good Doctor or A Quack?
My expectations were high for Dr. Beaker. At first glance it looked fun, treading the familiar Dr. Eureka ground with a new set of cooler-looking components. However, the game fails to match the original’s excitement primarily due to the fickleness of these components.
The problem? It’s not easy to move the marbles. I expected the rotating dish to rotate smoothly. It didn’t. I expected the marbles to move in and out of the middle section with ease. They didn’t.
My wife likened Dr. Beaker to one of those old-school number-sliding puzzles, where half the challenge was trying to move the darn numbers. The puzzle may have been engaging, but the components ruined the experience.
Likewise, you’ll spend more time trying to handle the stirrer and beaker than actually figuring out the puzzle. What’s the best way to hold the stirrer and the beaker? Should you look straight down into the beaker while moving marbles? Should you hold the beaker at an angle? Is it easier to use the smaller or bigger end of the stirrer?
It’s an unwelcome change from Dr. Eureka, whose simple components (three test tubes and marbles) were the unobtrusive background to a terrific puzzle. You simply poured marbles from one beaker to another until you matched the card’s goal.
Even after multiple plays Dr. Beaker’s components weren’t easier to manipulate and they too often became the main attraction, or rather distraction, as the puzzle solving became secondary. Most of the game’s action wasn’t about matching the goal on the card; rather, it was about overcoming the components.
It’s a shame because the puzzles were neat little brain twisters; they challenge you to find the fastest and most efficient way to move the marbles into their final positions. Instead of a feeling of accomplishment whenever I won a round, though, it was more a feeling of relief that the components hadn’t stopped me from playing the game.
Dr. Beaker also has accessibility issues. The game requires a certain amount of dexterity, and for anyone with colorblind issues this could be a game to skip over. For some reason Blue Orange changed the colors used in Dr. Beaker, and under certain lighting the red and green marbles look similar. Color blind players may need others to explain each card at the start of a round to determine where all the marbles go.
While the idea of Dr. Beaker is a good one, its execution is poor. The puzzles are interesting, but they’re done in by a questionable choice of components. Given the choice, I’d never choose to play Dr. Beaker over Dr. Eureka. As a sequel it’s like Jaws 2: an intriguing idea on paper, but the end product is nowhere near as good as the original.
iSlaytheDragon would like to thank Blue Orange Games for providing a copy of Dr. Beaker for review.