Puzzle games are ten a penny. It doesn’t matter what device you game on, you can always guarantee that the store front that supports your device has a plethora of puzzle games. With that in mind, it takes something truly remarkable to stand out from the crowd. We often see genre hybrids such as puzzle platformers or action puzzle games, constantly trying to grab some attention. Very rarely do we see a game that’s puzzle-raw to the bone, à la Tetris. Tiles attempts to walk this line, but doesn’t quite manage to captivate on the same level as that comparison. It’s a neat puzzle game, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not an experience that will be embedded in my mind for a good stretch of time.
The game’s core functionality couldn’t be simpler if it tried. The main menu welcomes you to a couple of choices outside of the options tab, which is in place to allow players to adjust the SFX and Music volume. The two choices come in the form of Play and Build. Build is self explanatory, being that you’re able to create your very own puzzle; down it its shape and size, before uploading it for the world to take on. The editor is very easy to get to grips with and comes with a single screen tutorial to help you on your way. You can even test your levels before uploading them, to ensure that they play out exactly as you want them to. In fact, the aforementioned tutorial is a good place to start as it tells you how the entire game will function.
When you’re done here, it’s time for the meat of the matter. Selecting Play from the main menu will present you with another two choices; Local and World. World is where you want to be if you’re interested in playing creations that have been shared online. There are several options here that allow you to filter the results; time posted, size, difficulty, origin platform, and so on and so forth. The game is already packed with a heap of shared content from the PC build, with well over four thousand puzzles already on offer. This comes on top of the ninety puzzles that come included in the local mode – the game’s campaign.
The campaign is set across six tabs, each housing fifteen puzzles a whack. Naturally, these puzzles are super easy to begin with, in fact I cant admit that I struggled too much until the third tab, and even then it wasn’t overly difficult. The aim of the game is as straightforward as they come. Each puzzle is presented to you on a grid-like layout, with a set number of tiles colored in to showcase where you’re allowed to move. You will always have a starting point, which is the green tile, and a finish point, which is the red tile. You take on the role of a small white tile, and you’re tasked with making it from the green tile to the red tile, whilst destroying each and every blue tile that forms the overall path.
If you touch the red tile with even just one single blue tile still on the grid, you’ll fail and will be forced to restart. Some blue tiles will need to be touched twice to see them destroyed, which not only forces some forward thinking, but often gives you a rest when you’re half way through a meaty puzzle and you find that you can stand on the spot without the risk of the tile falling from beneath you. The game gives you a enough time to bond with the mechanics on the first campaign tab, often dishing up simple ‘S’ shape grids or something as simplistic, but it doesn’t take long at all before other colored tiles make an appearance. With that to the side, I was a bit let down by the lack of innovation on this front.
There’s only a total of six different tile variants to suss out; yellow tiles will fall after a set amount of time, orange tiles will disappear and reappear, the purple tile is a ‘safe tile’ and will never fall, and I’ve already introduced you to the green and red tile. There’s not a lot to keep on top of, and the game makes the mistake of implementing all of these colored tiles on the first campaign tab, leaving no surprises for what follows on. Granted, the puzzle layouts do become quite intricate later in the game, but with nothing new from campaign tab two through six, it leaves a lot to be desired. Furthermore, many of the puzzles merely rely on good timing, rather than innovation.
The difficulty curve is all over the place, too. Take for instance, campaign tab two – puzzle five. This puzzle is laid out in such a way that it takes quite a bit of time to work out the one and only route that you can take to complete it. However, campaign tab three – puzzle one, three, four, and five, are all puzzles that rely solely on timing. The path from the green tile to the red tile in each of these puzzles remain immediately identifiable, pushing you to simply move fast to avoid falling tiles. There’s very little challenge to be found in these sort of puzzles here, which is a shame because this game shines at its brightest when you’re taking on some mind boggling layouts.
Tiles would have been a much better game if there was more structure to the difficulty curve, but instead, it’s a constant fluctuation of grids that require rapid movement, and well thought out (actual) puzzles. The campaign does indeed come with some replay value, via beating each puzzle in a set amount of time to unlock a star, but outside of bragging rights, there’s no meaning to this. You can also take to the game in co-op, in which the screen will split into two halves and relay the same puzzle, side by side. Visually, there’s not much the write home about. The backdrop is pitch black and lifeless, with tiles, a few button commands, and some stats in each top corner, rounding off the presentation of the game. This is tied together by one of the most irritating and repetitive tunes since Yasai Ninja, thank heaven for that options tab.
Tiles would have been a standard puzzle game, at best, had it not have been for the lack of innovation and depth. It will no doubt please a few fans of the genre, but if you like your puzzle games to challenge you and captivate you, stick with Tetris.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.