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Old 06-05-2011, 08:02 PM   #1
Pattoe
 
 
 
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Pattoe's Balanced Review of Tidalis

Hey guys, I recently purchased Tidalis and I decided to write a balanced review of the game, after seeing that the forums don't have that many posts and perhaps a review would help people make their decisions on whether to check the game out.

The first thing I'll do is give some background on my review and my experience with the game, which is what I will be basing the review on, to jump straight to the review, go down to the bold titles below, or go right to the conclusion, where I will summarise the points quickly and offer a rating.

The most important thing about the "balanced" part of the review is that I will give you the pros and cons of the game and my honest opinion on the game. Note that a lot of the review is my opinion, and not fact in any way. I will make it very clear when I am talking fact as opposed to opinion.

Ok, I have spent about 2 and a half hours playing the game, obviously not a lot of time in game but enough, I believe, to write a balanced review, as long as my audience understands I have not experienced every feature the game has to throw at me yet.

Also note that I personally spent £3.99 on this game, and steam sells it for £6.99. This is because I bought the game during a sale at Gamers Gate and I registered the product to steam using the license key. (Look around for good deals, it's smart!). Because you are allowed to register this product to steam even if you bought it elsewhere, you still have access to steam achievements and the steam stats and whatnot, very nice in my opinion.

Ok, so on to the review!

Gameplay


The main feature in all games are their game play, especially in a game such as Tidalis which brings new and experimental new puzzle gameplay to the market.

The gameplay takes place in a Tetris style way, with blocks dropping down which you must clear. In this game, however, you do not control the blocks, you have to create links between the blocks using "streams" which flow through blocks and are affected by their orientation, which you can alter to create chain reactions.

Anyway, enough of my explanation of the gameplay, the main question is... is it any good? Simple answer, as far as I am concerned, a big fat yes. I didn't really know what to expect and I am usually the kind of person who gets very frustrated very quickly at these kinds of games. I loved the simplicity of Tetris as a child, and I loved some of the earlier twists on the same concepts.

Of course, this game isn't Tetris, far from it. But what I am trying to say is that a lot of these games are far too complicated now, they throw you in at the deep end using convoluted and confusing mechanics which you can not understand, never mind master.

Other games are the opposite, they are far too simple and it is easy to get sick of the repetitive gameplay too quickly, one of the examples of this would be Bejeweled. A game with a great concept but far too shallow, with different game modes not offering any depth to the actual game.

Tidalis, however, managed to find a happy medium between complex gameplay mechanics and simple and easy to understand mechanics, using the story mode campaign to lead the player through the different modes and features of gameplay which you can choose to deal with in the quick/custom and online game modes.

These modes (Game styles) offer a vastly varied experience from one another, giving you new challenges and giving the game an amazing longevity. Each of these game styles offers something unique and interesting, you could play the laid back and chilled out "Zen" mode which simply offers you an endless game which you cant lose (Although you can give yourself a time limit and try to beat the max score)
Or, you could play the "frenzy" mode which will panic you and force you to making quick decisions and trying your utmost best just to survive.
There are many other styles available which I haven't even encountered yet in the story mode, which I am only 17% through, which look intriguing.

In addition to that you have player rules which change the game around and difficulty settings to challenge yourself more or take it easier.

As I have said, three is online play, although when I searched there was simply no games open in their browser, but I'm not sure if that was a problem on my end or not.

There is also Local 2 player mode on the same computer (Which I will be trying out soon and I think I'll be having a lot of fun with that!) which also works online, so you and a friend on the same computer can join a game with 2 people on a different computer. Very impressive for an independent developer to even attempt to provide that kind of multiplayer experience.

What's wrong with the gameplay? Well... It can be a bit slow at times and lack the action filled and reflex based appeal of games such as Bejeweled. There are modes which increase the action but you still have to put a fair bit of thought into your moves.

Also, some of the story missions are trickier with you having to focus on efficiency and be careful with your moves so avoid certain losing criteria such as "Do not remove 20 green blocks, but remove 60 blue blocks" which mean that you have to be careful not to cause any combos which could lead to a chain reaction removing the green blocks. This can be irritating and there is no way that I can find to skip certain missions in the story mode.

There are also options related to the gameplay which change certain aspects and these are not explained very well, and you have to figure out whether they suit you or not by trial and error.

Music and sound

The music is very nice, giving you a nice and relaxed sound track when the action is slow and speeding up and giving a more furious soundtrack when things get tight.

I like the music, personally, but I can see a few problems at the moment and that is that the music can get fairly repetitive, especially in the more relaxing modes. I can imagine going a little bit insane on the "Zen" mode which offers an endless experience as there seems to be only one music track for that and it is short and repeats itself.

There is nothing stopping you turning the music off and using your own music as background, though, which I believe would be a very satisfying experience.

One of the best things I noticed about the soundtrack is that it does keep time with your moves, allowing you to get into the beat that it gives and complimenting the gameplay very nicely.

Controls

The controls are part of the gameplay, but I believed they earn themselves their own section as they are pretty original.

The default controls are entirely based around the mouse, with left-click activating the streams and right click changing the directions of blocks. This is very minimalistic and rather intuitive.

One problem I have with the controls are that they are sometimes a bit awkward, especially when trying to make quick moves when sometimes the directions of blocks don't change exactly how you wanted them to. The alterations you can make to the controls may help this problem, though.

There are also keyboard controls available, I believe, but I haven't tested these so I cannot make a comment on them at this time.

There is no game pad controller support. Something which doesn't affect me as I prefer using a mouse, but definitely something to take on board.

Art style/Aesthetics

The art style or the Aesthetic look of this game is very pleasing, bright and colourful and easy to differentiate between objects in the game, with a number of backdrops to the game, which you can select between on quick/custom games or leave on random.

The game even comes with a mode for colour blind players which is very useful for me. This mode is actually effective (Which, in some games, it simply is useless) and helps me differentiate between colours which I normally have great difficulty with.

There are also many different art styles available for the actual blocks, which you can choose from which is a very nice feature.

Conclusion

To summarise, this game is a lot deeper than I thought it would be. (As you can tell by the length of this review). I have played for 2 hours and have only made it through 17% of the story/adventure mode and haven't even had a chance to properly play around with the quick/custom game modes.

There is a lot of playability here, with a varied and interesting scope of gameplay styles which will be able to attract your attention for many, many hours.

The full price of this game is £6.99, which is roughly 8 euros or $10. For that price I would definitely say this game is worth it.

I would recommend this game to both casual and hardcore fans of the grid style, block based puzzle games. There is a demo also available which you can download directly from the steam store page.

My overall rating, 7/10. A very nice score for a game with such a low price and developed by an independent developer.



Thank you very much for reading my balanced review, it is late now and I have to go, but I have much to add to the review which I think I will do tomorrow. If you have any comments or think that I should mention other things about this game and give my opinions on them, feel free to put so in a reply or personal message.

Pattoe.

Last edited by Pattoe: 06-05-2011 at 08:16 PM.
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Old 06-06-2011, 04:31 AM   #2
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Thanks for the review! It's always fun reading things like this. I have a few things to add that I think might be helpful for you and others:

There actually is a skip feature in the adventure mode. When you lose, one of the options presented is "Skip Level". Selecting that unlocks the next level on the map and shows the skipped level's icon in yellow instead of red (newest level) or blue (completed). If you're getting frustrated on any particular stage, you're welcome to skip ahead!

Regarding controls, we fiddled around with mouse controls to find a good algorithm for figuring out what direction the user intended to make an arrow point, but we ultimately went with something simple which sets the arrow direction if you move some number of pixels. If you move too many pixels at the end of your mouse drag in the wrong direction, you'll wind up with it pointing the wrong way. You can increase the number of pixels required to make blocks rotate, but then subtle movements are ignored. I suggest tweaking the Min Mouse Drag option in Settings to try to find the setting that works best for you.

Other things I recommend checking out in the controls are smart drag and marking. The game has auto-marking enabled by default, but as you get better at the game, you may find that a hindrance. You can disable it and simply use the manual marking buttons (I believe they are M, N, B, and middle click, by default) for things like helping you keep track of where each chain in a combo is supposed to begin. By far the biggest thing you can do to improve your control over the game, though, is enable smart drag. Smart drag makes it so that a block of the current color becomes locked to whatever direction it is pointing when the cursor leaves it for the current mouse drag, allowing you to arrange all the blocks in a single chain in one quick, easy drag. If the chain you're working on involves a stream moving over a block that is already part of the chain, this feature allows you to drag over it without undoing your earlier work. It's a bit difficult to explain and likely a little unintuitive at first (hence why it's disabled by default), but smart drag is a fantastic part of the controls that I find important for playing at a very rapid pace.

Also, while there is no direct game pad support, I believe there is software that can allow you map gamepad keys to keyboard keys. It's understandably less ideal than direct in-game support, but it should work.

Finally, all of the tools we used for designing the game's content (themes, adventure map, and puzzles (and perhaps the story scenes?)) are available in the game for players to create their own. Of greatest interest there is the puzzle editor. I suggest checking it out. It may be worth writing a bit about.
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Old 07-07-2011, 06:00 PM   #3
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Hey, Sorry I haven't updated the review or posted in quite some time, I've been pretty busy lately travelling and other stuff.

Got back and saw Tidalis in the sales and I decided to start playing it again. (Also purchased AI War too, but that's another story, bloody amazing game.)

One thing I think I'll add is that Tidalis really does suit a casual player, meaning that you do not have to be a brain surgen puzzle solver or a gun fighter with the quickest fingers in the wild west to enjoy this game, I mentioned the slower modes such as Zen mode in my review...

I didn't really go that far into detail about how customisable the game is though, the options for custom games are really extensive, allowing you to create an experience which is perfect for you, allowing you to make a game to chill out too or allowing you to make a game thatll make you pull your hair out, and the options for custom games are incredibly user friendly.

The game is currently half price, I would have to say you are missing an amazing deal if you don't pick up this game, it is worth twice of it's usual price in my opinion, so half price makes it a no-brainer.

The only problem I have at the moment is that the soundtrack for this game is only available via iTunes, I don't use iTunes and I really avoid using it, purchasing music from things like Amazon or using CD's to copy onto my computer.

I have no problem paying for soundtracks, and I'm glad the AI War soundtrack is available for free (At least it seems like it was intended to be) I wouldn't mind paying £3 ($5) for the Soundtrack to Tidalis. (Same goes for AI War if I wasn't meant to copy the files)

Obviously, that isn't a problem with the game, it's actually just saying how great the soundtracks are!

Don't be silly, guys. Buy this game. Also, while you're at it, look into AI war: Fleet Command. The trailer is pretty bad and doesn't really let you know how fun the game is, so read up on it and try the demo, it's extensive and will let you know what you're in for.

P.s. Tidalis is a great little game to play on a laptop if you're stranded 800 miles from home and you need to relax before figuring out what to do!
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Old 07-07-2011, 06:04 PM   #4
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You can get the soundtrack for Tidalis straight out of its game folders, same as AI War, actually. The difference is that you have to look in the Music folder and in the individual Theme subfolders. Only a few things like the win/loss music are actually in the music folder, and the rest goes with the Theme that it's related to.

Same as with AI War, we don't mind if you copy the soundtrack to listen to -- you bought it! However, our composer does sell higher-quality recordings via iTunes, and if you want to send him an extra kudos or get the absolutely highest-fidelity version you can then that's a great way to do it. But the in-game versions are obviously at a pretty great quality as it is, so that's totally your option.

Thanks again for the review!
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Old 07-07-2011, 06:12 PM   #5
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Thanks for the quick reply! I'll go rooting around for those files now!

Will be telling people of the great soundtracks so hopefully that'll get you a few more sales and your composers a few more sales too.

I'll have to write a review of AI War: Fleet Command some time, I do want to wait until after I've had some experience with it cooperatively, as coop play with friends and family seems to be something pretty important in AI War.

Surprised to see an entire expansion as the ticket prize for AI War too, that's very generous.

Really hope to see Arcen producing more games! Any idea what may be coming up next, or would that be looking too far into the future?
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Old 07-07-2011, 06:19 PM   #6
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Many thanks again for the kind words.

In terms of our next game, it's called A Valley Without Wind and should be hitting a public beta phase in August: http://www.arcengames.com/w/index.ph.../avww-features

We've been in production on that one since late January, and the prerelease buzz for that has been better than for anything else we've ever done. The Australian magazine PC Power Play just did a huge writeup on it, which was really cool. But a lot still hasn't been fully unveiled yet, so stay tuned!
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Old 07-07-2011, 06:35 PM   #7
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Wow, That game looks awesome. The name did sound familiar to me. It looks very much like a professionally done Terraria, which is a good thing if you look at the sales Terraria has had!

Ofcourse, it looks to have a huge amount more depth than terraria, I could easily see myself spending 100s of hours on that, can't wait for the Beta!

Any idea whether it will end up having some kind of cooperative online play?
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Old 07-07-2011, 06:36 PM   #8
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Thanks! And you bet, it definitely has co-op! http://www.co-optimus.com/article/55...rt-mmorpg.html
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Old 07-07-2011, 06:49 PM   #9
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Wow, that really does look amazing, and another shift from the genre of games you already offer, I don't know why, but I like that. Some developers get bogged down making games which are far too similar to each other.

You're making vastly different games but with a very noticeable "Good design", and it looks like you're using the experience you've gained from AI War with AVWW.

I'm definitely spreading some word of mouth about AVWW!
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Old 08-23-2011, 02:42 PM   #10
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Just bumping this thread so people checking in on the amazing sale can see my thoughts on the game. Also remember there is a demo available, please don't take this game at face value, it is a lot deeper than a simple Tetris style puzzle game!
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