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Tidalis

Score: 80%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Arcen Games
Developer: Arcen Games
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 2
Genre: Puzzle

Graphics & Sound:

Tidalis is an interesting twist on the standard falling-tiles puzzle game that doesn't require you to match lines of same-colored blocks, but rather set up pathways denoted by the arrows on the blocks for waves of energy to flow and destroy the blocks on the board.

Between the game's varied backdrops and its generally soothing music, Tidalis does a pretty fair job of setting the mood for a relaxing, casual puzzle game, and for the most part, the game's general feel sticks to that mood. Of course, as you progress and the game gets tougher, the overall feel of the game takes on a much more frantic nature.


Gameplay:

As I mentioned above, Tidalis isn't the standard block-based puzzle game. While colored tiles do fall from the sky, you have no control over where they land or when they appear. Each tile is a color and has an arrow on it. The goal is to line up the arrows so that they will lead to large combos and destroy as many blocks as possible. When you feel like you've lined up a good set, a click of the mouse activates the wave and sends it from your selected tile in whichever directions your blocks say for it to go. As it bounces around the board, it will not only follow your path, but it can also split if it crosses a double-headed arrow, thus making the possible number of blocks to hit staggeringly high with the right amount of strategy.

When the wave has run its course, the activated blocks go away, the ones above them fall, and they set off waves of their own. If you planed your maneuver well enough, then those subsequent beams will run around the board bouncing from tile to tile some more and allow you to rack up even more points. Of course, while you are doing this, tiles fall from the sky and fill up the game board, so you won't want to spend too much time setting up the perfect pattern.

Tidalis offers a few different gameplay modes. Not only is there an Adventure mode that narrates you through a strange island filled with strange animals, but there is also a Brainteaser option where you have a set number of moves to clear boards.

Tidalis also offers some online play and gives you the option to join or host games either on your local network or on across the world. With the game's Network Play, you can go Co-Op or Versus in any of the single-player levels, and offers a friend search to let you find players ranked anywhere from New Player to Insanely Good, and the games themselves range from Impossible to Lose to Impossible to Win. While an online feature is rarely seen in a puzzle game, it is a nice change of pace and it might even appeal to some of the casual gamers who will be intrigued by Tidalis.


Difficulty:

Both Tidalis's Puzzle and Adventure Modes do a good job of starting off with the basics and easy missions, but ramping up the difficulty at a steady rate. The early Brainteaser boards offered little challenge and required a minimal amount of setup before firing off the chain that clears the board in the accepted number of moves, but as the game progressed, the intricacies of the puzzles became more apparent and the constraints on the puzzles more challenging.

Similar things can be said for the game's Story Mode where early game boards offered you a lot of space and plenty of time to work out your stream paths. As the story progressed though, Tidalis introduced special tiles that could not be rotated, or power ups that added extra levels of strategy. Overall, the game does a good job of keeping things interesting, and only feeling overwhelming a few times.


Game Mechanics:

Tidalis's unique trait is the streams and the way you use them to clear the tiles from the board. Instead of relying on similarly colored blocks falling to fill in holes, you are given the ability to rotate tiles and point their arrows in each of the four directions. This is done by holding down the Right Mouse Button and, essentially, drawing out your path. Any tiles of the same color as the one you started on will rotate to point the direction you are going and as long as that tile isn't more than two spaces from its predecessor, the wave will hit it and go in the direction it's pointing. When you are ready to let loose the beam, you simply left click on the tile you want to start from, and away it goes.

Tidalis's ease of use really lends itself well to the casual market it is trying to hit, but there is also enough substance in the game to make it appealing for more hardcore puzzle gamers as well. This is definitely a game to check out if you are looking for a new type of tile-game.


-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows 2000, 512 MB RAM, 1.4 GHz CPU, 600MB Hard Disk Space, 800x600 or greater screen resolution (32 bit color, 1280x720 recommended), Internet Connection or LAN required for networked multiplayer, There are no particular graphics card requirements; anything from the last 5-8 years should be fine.
 

Test System:



Windows 7 Ultimate, Intel i7 X980 3.33GHz, 12 GB RAM, Radeon HD 5870 Graphics Card, DirectX 9.0c

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