When you think of puzzle games, falling-block games like Tetris and match-three games such as Bejeweled probably spring to mind. But there is another type of puzzler that differs greatly from those games. I speak, of course, of the physics-based puzzle game. These games challenge players to place items throughout a level, using their interaction with the level and the game’s physics to accomplish a goal. Tiki Towers from Game House falls into this cerebral sub-genre.
The premise of Tiki Towers involves an airplane dropping numerous boxes of monkeys onto several different islands. All five of a box’s monkeys must make it from their box to the goal in order to complete a level. The monkeys have their own AI and will walk and jump short distances. But each level contains peaks, pits, and other hazards that the simians can’t surmount on their own. That’s where the player comes in.
Grab a banana and swing past the break for our full review.
To help the monkeys get across gaps and obstacles, gamers must build the titular towers out of bamboo sticks. These sticks must be attached to something – either a piece of metal or each other, so you can’t just start building in thin air. Touching a spot near a buildable point will attach two sticks to it, creating a triangle. By holding your finger down and moving it slightly, you can adjust the angle of the sticks before placing them. That’s all there is to building towers – tap and place or tap, hold, and place until the structure looks like it will do the job. One caveat – each stick can only support so much weight before it breaks, so players need to try to balance their designs out accordingly.
Pick up the sticks
There are two different ways to delete sticks. Tapping a stick directly removes it. Occasionally, the game won’t realize you’re trying to get rid of a stick and instead places a new one near the one you were trying to pull. When this happens, or if a lot of sticks need to be taken away, eraser mode does the trick. A button in the top-right corner of the screen toggles between eraser and building mode. Once activated, players can drag across the screen and delete multiple sticks simultaneously without fear of placing new ones.
The proof is in the pudding
Like iBlast Moki, there are two distinct phases to Tiki Towers’ game play: the planning phase and the action phase. After you’ve built the tower(s), it’s time to press the action button and see if everything goes according to plan. The monkeys spring to life and make their way to the goal. If they can’t pass an obstacle or get killed, it’s back to the drawing board. I found it fairly easy to iterate my solutions, building a structure to get past one obstacle, testing it, and then working on the next structure until I had solved the level.
It’s one thing to reach a level’s exit, but another thing to master it. Every level contains five bananas – one for each monkey. In order to perfect a level, all monkeys must reach the exit with a banana in-hand. The monkeys do their part, heading for any banana within reach before trying for the goal. But players will often need to build tower parts specifically to help the monkeys out. This adds a layer of depth (and challenge) to the game’s many levels.
Islands of adventure
Each of Tiki Towers’ six islands contains nine levels, for a total of 54 levels. Gamers only have access to one island at the start, but completing three levels in an island unlocks the next island. That way if you’re stumped on one island, there’s usually another set of levels to try. Completing the first five islands unlocks Eco Challenges and the sixth “island,” The Diving Dutchman.
Eco Challenges (also called Cousteau Challenges in the Diving Dutchman levels) add a new objective to every level. Players always have a limited number of sticks to solve a level, you see. But due to greenhouse gases and rampant Republicanism, bamboo supplies are running lower than ever! Hence the need to go back through every level, completing them all with fewer sticks than before – while still collecting every banana. Actually, if a level was already completed under par, it doesn’t need to be redone. Eco Challenges require increasingly creative solutions and really extend the playtime of an already well-stocked game.
Games in the physics genre tend to offer a stimulating good time until the player runs into a really tough level, at which point the fun comes screeching to a halt. There are often so many possible things to try that you can’t just guess your way to the solution. It happened to me in both iBlast Moki and Enigmo, despite my seemingly amazing intellectual powers. Sure, I could always hop on YouTube and look for the answer, but that shouldn’t be necessary.
Thankfully Tiki Towers doesn’t fall prey to that issue. Because there is only one tool to work with (sticks) instead of multiple gadgets, this game’s difficulty is much lower than its brethren. It still requires plenty of thought and retries, as even solid-looking towers can come crashing down unexpectedly when covered in primates. And yet I managed to complete every single level without outside assistance. Of course it’s still possible someone could get stuck, but Tiki Towers’ overall reasonable difficulty is much appreciated.
The Achievements in Tiki Towers are pretty much what you’d expect from a game of this type. Most of them revolve around finishing every level, collecting every banana, and completing every Eco Challenge. That means they tend to come near the end of the game instead of spacing out their distribution. But there are some optional challenges like killing 100 monkeys, erasing 1,000 sticks, and killing all five monkeys at once. All in all, the full 200 GamerScore shouldn’t be too hard to reach.
Tiki Towers is just an exceptionally well-made game. Its bright, colorful graphics, intuitive controls, and silly theme make it highly approachable. The tower-building game play is easy to grasp and allows for multiple solutions to each puzzle - with a minimum of frustration. With so many levels (and Eco Challenges on top of those), the game is an excellent value. I never stopped having fun until every last objective was done. Hopefully Game House brings the Tiki Towers 2: Monkey Republic, recently released on iPhone, to Xbox Live sooner rather than later.
Tiki Towers costs just $2.99 and there is a free trial. Scoop it up here on the Marketplace.
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