Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Tangram Attack! (3DS) Review

Tangram Attack! is a puzzle game on the Nintendo 3DS that presents players with an image made up of 7 different pieces.  Most pieces are triangles of various sizes, but there is an odd square or parallelogram thrown in for good measure.  These shapes make up a surprising amount of different pictures, although you will see repeats if you play enough.  The game starts off with an Academy mode, which teaches you the basics.  You must cut off each piece, but a piece can only be removed if it would take one cut.  You will quickly shave each piece off of the image until they are all gone, then another image will appear.

The Academy mode does a good job of increasing difficulty as you go.  It starts with each piece having a different color, so it's easy to see them all.  Each tier, or belt, as the game puts it, will remove a color until the image is one whole color, but still made up of seven pieces.  Some of the Academy stages are really tricky, especially the ones that must be done quickly.  Most times, cutting the pieces off isn't enough, and you must shoot for a high score, which requires you to cut the pieces off with no mistakes.  Doing so gives you a score multiplier.  Any mistake is costly, as it resets that multiplier.  While the premise of the game is simple, it is actually pretty hard, simply because there are some parts of the images where the pieces left can fit together in more ways than one.  It's frustrating to have your multiplier banished because you cut the two triangles in a square shape the other way.  Occasionally, the cut would register incorrectly as well, which would also kill your score.

The other three modes are Zen, Arcade and Blitz.  Zen has no time limit, but if you get three mistakes on a single puzzle, you lose.  It's nice to not have the time limit, making it easier to keep big combos, but it is easier than you might think to get three mistakes.  Arcade has a time limit that gets replenished as you solve puzzles, but each mistake costs a chunk of time.  It's a good middle ground, but there's still a lot of pressure from the time, especially as you get farther in.  Arcade also has a Frenzy Mode.  It shows each piece as a different color, which can help you get big points.  Blitz mode gives you 60 seconds to get as high a score as possible.  If you just randomly cut around, you can clear a surprising amount of puzzles, but of course your score will suffer.  Again, taking some time will get the best results, but Blitz is pretty unforgiving.  It's my least favorite of the modes the game has to offer.

The three of those modes have all pieces of the same color (except the few times you get Frenzy), making them fairly hard.  Thankfully they are not offered from the outset so you get the better learning curve offered from Academy.  It would be nice to have a difficulty slider for those modes, and just offer less points or something to even it out.  There is a hint feature, which costs 1000 points to use, but if you have a large multiplier, it's well worth the cost.  Getting points in each of these modes will level you up, which seems to offer no bonuses other than letting you prestige when you get high enough.  Of course, by that time you will likely have all the different images memorized, and can solve each very quickly.

There's even some badges you can earn by doing various feats.  Similar to achievements or trophies, you can get badges for reaching prestige mode in each game type, or getting very high scores.  They are quite challenging, so practice if you want to get them.  You can also change the pattern on the back of the pieces.  It's more useful than it might seem at first, since you can use the pattern to help differentiate which way to cut the pieces when there are multiple possible solutions.

Tangram Attack! is very pick up and play friendly.  It gives a good visual and brain workout.  I like to do games like this and Brain Age soon after waking up, as it gets my brain into gear quickly.  While not the best puzzle game I've played, the game can be very addicting.  If you are a fan of puzzle games, you should at least give Tangram Attack! a try.  The game is a lot harder than it seems, and punishes your score harshly for any mistakes.

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