Arguably the hardest thing about reviewing video games is getting a really challenging game ahead of or around its release date. There are no playthroughs and no guides to help you progress – you are left to your own devices, which more often than not means floundering around like an idiot as you reach your deadline.
The game responsible for today’s floundering is Tetragon, a mysterious but serene indie puzzler that’ll confuzzle even the most hardened of puzzle fans. Developed by 9-person indie outfit Cafundo, Tetragon is a title of modest ambitions and few mechanics, aiming to blend in with its peers without re-inventing the wheel – even if it does let you rotate the world around you.
A magic stone called TetraGen has granted you the power to rotate the map and extend columns (either vertically and horizontally depending on the column) to reach the floating Rubik’s cube goal in each map. It’s a fun gimmick that manifests itself slightly differently in each map, often using both mechanics in each level, and will have you fixated on the screen as you attempt to stare the game into submission. Adjusting the map back and forth, getting stuck for hours, falling asleep, and then waking up to finally solve the damn thing was just par the course over my playthrough.
With no skill or time-based requirements, this is very much a game you can enjoy at your own pace, and with 40+ levels spread out over 3 different worlds, there is no shortage of content available.
In terms of its presentation, creating colorful and mysterious visuals is the Unity engine, well-known for its smooth output and clean textures. The soundtrack on the other hand is both relaxing and serene, with a xylophone and a piano bringing a calming effect to proceedings. These features, while decent in isolation, blend rather poorly as their tone’s contrast to the emotionally-driven story with an amnesia-affected lumberjack attempting to find his son, but is restricted to ‘ghosts’ located in corners of each map and lines of error-strewn text interactions. It’s hard to reconcile the difference with the relaxed soundtrack which suggests are more pleasant storyline.
While impressing in the first few maps, the game’s minimalistic features start to show their slightly suspect implementation and rough edges not long after. The biggest offender of this is the game’s tower manipulation mechanic, which as its main gimmick, should be its most consistent, but poor collision detection and a host of other bugs will see blocks force themselves through each other, cause inconsistent deaths or simply break the level requiring a level reset.
The controls don’t fare much better either, making my aforementioned flailing ever more prevalent, with 2 and 3-block jumps having different inputs and the column selection process making about as much sense as buying this game on day one – which there is none. Wish to reselect the same block tower with a single button press after it automatically unselects as you consider a solution? Well – you can’t, you need to cycle left or right and then back again. Logic might also dictate that cycling clockwise when selecting a column be would with ‘R1’ instead of ‘L1’? Wrong again.
The only saving grace here is that there’s no time limit, which gives you all the time in the world to get your head around these unruly controls. Oh, and for your sanity, lower the volume of the column selecting sound effect, which sounds like it’s trying to torture any animals in the vicinity with a high-pitched whine.
With a decent concept in tow, Tetragon has all the ingredients needed for a solid puzzler but fails to make a dish worth consistently coming back to as you realize that the game’s flawed gameplay mechanic and repetitive levels are apparent throughout. If ironed out in a patch, then this title’s overall merits might be worth reconsideration, but until then there are better alternatives available, so best leave the floundering to me – for now. Having said that though, if you are sorely looking for a challenge then this game might just be up your alley, just don’t expect perfection.