TiQal Review

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Publisher: Slapdash Games
Developer: Slapdash Games

Platforms: Xbox 360 and PC
Reviewed on Xbox 360

The village of TiQal is threatened with imminent destruction, and it is up to you to make an epic journey through the jungles of Mesoamerica to plead with the gods for their aid and protection. How better to seek the help of the gods than by arranging colored blocks in a two-dimensional field.

Kyle Ackerman

TiQal is a puzzle game that plays like a Tetris or Lumines, while featuring the sound and visual style of a game like Zuma. You drop patterns of blocks in a Tetris-like fasion, trying to create squares of like colors. Whenever a square of four similarly colored blocks is made, those blocks are eliminated from the play field, in the style of Lumines. What distinguishes TiQal is the power-ups generated by destroying groups of blocks. Destroying more than one group of four blocks creates a combo, and the bigger the combo, the more powerful the power-up. Power ups can eliminate rows, columns, entire colors of blocks or grant extra lives, among other functions.

TiQal is well made, fun to play and nicely polished, but doesn't really set itself apart from the many other falling block games available to casual gamers of all stripes. The single-player mode is an extensive quest with 120 levels. Over time, you unlock new (and more difficult to use) blocks and more powerful power-ups. But, fundamentally, once you've unlocked the bulk of the power-ups and blocks, you're just playing exactly the same falling-block game, hour after hour.

Playing TiQal reminded me of those days long ago when, instead of working, I'd try to manage day-long sessions of Tetris. That sort of thing stopped once I realized there were more interesting games out there. Now, I still enjoy these kinds of casual puzzle games, but personally prefer a difficulty curve that ramps up more rapidly, rather than finding myself drifting off to sleep as I enter my third hour of dropping blocks.

In Tiqual, if the blocks reach the top of the screen, you don't immediately lose. Instead, you lose a life and the blocks are pushed back down the screen. Some of the power-ups give you more lives, so it's possible to build up quite a buffer and play for a long time. Fortunately, the backgrounds are impressively rendered, and there are a lot of them, so at least the play takes place in front of interesting art.

The game also distinguishes itself by peppering you with facts about Mesoamerican cultures (think: certain prehistoric cultures ranging from what is now Mexico to parts of South America). There's also a plot that involves pleasing various gods and totems by solving the casual puzzle game's levels. It's so "noble savage" that it feels like the game's writers were busy chewing Teonanacatl while penning the story. (Roughly translates as "mushroom of the gods" – Google it.) Also, some elements may make you cringe if you know anything about Mesoamerican prehistory. For example, if it bothers you that the atlatl looks and sounds like a blowgun, don't buy this game.

TiQal is a good game, but it's a good game in a genre packed with other good games. The reason to pay 800 points ($10) for TiQal is if you want the setting or the power-ups to enjoy a change from your typical block-dropping experience.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on April 3, 2008 3:03 PM.

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