Back in 2007, developer Yuke’s developed a puzzle game called Neves. With simple and solid design, the game’s biggest flaw was its price point. Now that this game can be found for under $10, Neves is a sleeper hit that never got the recognition it deserved. Until now, Neves was a one of a kind puzzler on DS. With basically the same game design, how does it stack up against newcomer Hands on! Tangrams?
Like Neves, the goal of the game is simple: using seven different shapes/polygons, the player must rearrange them to form one bigger shape. Although this sounds easy, it can be quite tricky figuring out the location and rotation of each piece.
After only a few puzzles, Tangrams’ flaws really start to pop up. First, the game’s level of progression is restrictive and will frustrate the player. Unlike Neves’ “choose any puzzle you want” upon first starting up the game, Tangrams forces the player to complete each puzzle in a linear fashion. This is overly frustrating when the player has difficulty trying to solve a particular puzzle as you must stay with it until it is completed to be rewarded with a new puzzle. At least in games like Guitar Hero the player has access to several songs before new ones become available. The game has many, many puzzles to complete, it is just a shame that most players will probably give up before they see most of them.
There are two modes of play, the main gameplay mode, where each puzzle must be solved in sequential order, and freeplay which allows the player revisit completed puzzles. If you complete a puzzle in a short amount of time, the game rewards the player by placing a gold star next to that specific challenge. However, this reward system is entirely flawed and pointless because once the player figures out the puzzle, it can be completed in a short moment a second time around. Why was this feature even in the game at all?
Hands on! Tangrams also suffers largely from control issues. Neves supported an all stylus control that allowed the player move, rotate, and flip pieces exclusively with the stylus. Working against the player, Tangrams uses the stylus, face buttons and shoulder buttons. Each shoulder button is used to rotate the piece in that corresponding direction. This means that the player does not have easy access to the other shoulder button because that hand will be occupied with the stylus. Further, if the player has to use the D-pad/face buttons during gameplay, why are the menu screens touch control only?
The second biggest flaw with the game’s control scheme is the lack of touch recognition. For some reason, I had a hell of a time trying to drag pieces from the bottom of the screen, particularly the two small triangle pieces that always start on the bottom right. To make sure that it was not my DS malfunctioning, it tested the stylus with a couple other games, but had no problems. Trying to grab each piece’s “sweet spot” relies more on luck than user input. If you cannot select a piece after 30 seconds, it should be a clear indication that there is a programming bug.
If the shoddy and inaccurate touch control wasn’t frustrating enough, the game also suffers from other presentation annoyances. First, the player is forced to watch a mindless two frame animation after each puzzle has been solved. It wouldn’t be so bad if this useless animation didn’t drag on forever. Secondly, the music gets old way too quick; an expanded soundtrack would have been welcomed. Next, the top screen doesn’t serve a purpose whatsoever. During each puzzle, the top screen displays a static image of a landscape…why relevant information, like the timer or information on the puzzle, wasn’t placed here is a big question to ask. Finally, I actually completed a puzzle using only 6 of the 7 pieces but yet the game did not acknowledge this, forcing me to go back and solve the puzzle how the game wanted me to solve it. Well, if the game spent more time in the testing phase, problems like this could have been avoided.
With no multiplayer options, limited game progression, a terrible soundtrack, and horrible touch control recognition, it is hard to recommend this game over the budget friendly Neves.
Better Than: Using paper cutouts
Also Try: Neves
Wait For It: The Next Professor Layton
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