Tiqal – XBLA Review
The Mayans Tetris unraveled
©2008 Noel Schneilder
“`The Mayans were one of the Earth’s great civilizations during their time period on Earth. Tiqal is a puzzle game that bases its main story line on a young warrior who is on a quest for glory and who along the way gains special power-ups from pleasing Mayan gods. Now before you get all excited, remember this is a puzzle game, so don’t expect a gory hack-and-slash cannibalistic game based on the Mayan civilization.
“`Tiqal in essence is a game that plays a hell of a lot like and even looks like the most addictive puzzle game ever, Tetris. Its core gameplay is clearly derived from Tetris and the rules simple and easy to follow. The aim of the game is to destroy all of the blocks on the screen, or just hold out until the block based timer runs out.
Tiqal makes its gameplay very addictive and is aimed at the casual gamer with the simple philosophy; make 2×2 blocks of the same colour for them to collapse. You start with a select amount of lives and should your screen fill up, you’ll lose a life and the blocks will retreat. Run out of lives and you can kiss your game goodbye as it’s then game over. Sound easy so far? If so then you will find this very easy.
The game constantly employs the use of power-ups to try and freshen up the rather bland gameplay. As the game progresses, you can obtain new power-ups by following your warriors progress (after each level you gain a new mission to the story) and every second level in each chapter grants you the abilities to new power-ups.
Some power-ups that are commonly featured are Spears of Mixcoatl which collapses 3 random columns, Jaguar’s Strike which removes all blocks of the same colour and Gift of Tohil which destroys a certain area in an engulfing burst of flames. As you delve deeper into the storyline you can also gain new shapes which can make building your blocks higher and wider for more combos much easier. As you progress the levels will become far longer and the chance for higher combos makes your scores go up insanely quickly.
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Tiqal features many interesting facts about the Mayan civilization and looks to employ the same tactics that were introduced by Age of Empires (even the music has a very Age of Empires feel to it, shame the gameplay doesn’t!). By passing each level you will learn something new about the Mayan culture and what your warrior’s mission was about generally relates to the fact.
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A rich colour scheme combined with lovely CG backgrounds (with some having moving clouds) that you would die for just as a screensaver, are embrued throughout the game. The block’s colours in each game change (generally according to what is in the background) and will feature only three main colours. The animations in Tiqal are smooth and the power-ups provide nice animations when they are initiated.
This is where the game unfortunately begins to falter and its nagging flaws come through. The major issue that arises when playing is the fact that it is far too easy and this seriously undermines the potential fun that could have been had. On average, every two or three levels you gain a new life by collecting the heart power-ups (when you get 20 you gain another life) and this happens far too frequently, however it could have been handy, had this game been a challenge.
Not once have I ever been in real danger of losing a life and it is now to the point where I now have in excess of over 20 lives and each level almost seems to become far too easy. It is clear it is aimed at the average casual gamer, but there is just no pressure on the player to make wise decisions in a time of crisis
“`My second gripe is that every time your screen is filled ¾ of the way up, it ruins the calm and ambient music that normally plays with a horrid repeating music loop of a very short song. This really kills off the ambience, and while it may be understandable had you been in any real kind of trouble, but when its just for one block that has risen to a certain height, it really ticks you off.
“`It is clear to see that Tiqal has aimed to take the good things from Tetris and has endeavoured to build on them and has made a decent sister version of it. Tiqal is definitely an addictive and fun game and is a definite buy for any casual gamer who likes an easy, yet riveting game. However, for my liking, it had the potential to be good, but the lack of urgency is never there and rash decisions are few and far between.
In a sense it’s a double puzzle game as I am puzzled as to why its difficulty was made so easy, when the formula for a challenging game was in front of Slapdash’s eyes. It is this underwhelming difficulty that separates the game away from the fun gameplay that was available.
If you do not purchase many Xbox Live Arcade games and enjoy easy games, then this game is an absolute must purchase. However, if you are a hardcore puzzle gamer then I suggest the trial as the difficulty will become far too easy and the gameplay will soon become stale.