Move a white tile from a green tile, over blue tiles, to get to a red tile! Tiles!
Pretty graphics do not make a good game. Whilst they certainly can help in some instances, they can’t hide a shoddy product beneath. Just look at some of the wonky Unreal Engine 4 games that have cropped up on Steam Greenlight in the past year or so. To my mind, a good game needs a solid premise, engaging and varied gameplay, and tight controls. Maybe a well written and communicated story and good use of sound too. Regardless of those things, the pretties are not the be all and end all. Which is a good thing for Tiles as it is not a pretty game to look at.
I’ll get this out of the way early, Tiles’ graphical style is weak. The menus look simplistic, the animations amount to sliding in a direction, and nearly everything is little more than a block colour square. Thankfully, the game is more fun to play than it is to look at. The premise is simple: move your white tile to the red tile to complete the level. As you move from tile to tile, some of them will drop into the abyss after a few moments and you won’t be able to leave the level until all of these tiles have been sent into the pit.
Annoyingly, this information is not communicated to the player when they begin, but it doesn’t take long to work it out. Other tiles are safe havens, whilst some will appear and disappear or require you to pass over them more than once to eliminate them. This means each level becomes a challenge of working out the correct route to hit all the tiles and make it to the exit before having to execute it flawlessly using the arrow keys.
And flawless is the correct word to use here as you will often need to pass over a tile to reach another one and then retrace your steps very quickly before the previous one falls into the pit. It can be somewhat irritating to have a puzzle all figured out but find that the execution is failing you due to a mis-tapped key or one tap too many sending you to your doom.
Thankfully a failure allows you to restart the level quickly (resetting you immediately back to the start, Super Meat Boy style) so a death doesn’t present much of a penalty. A lot of the time spent playing in Tiles will be put into retrying the level until your fingers are quick enough to get it spot on and progress to the next challenge. In this regard, some of the levels can come across as two parts luck to one part skill. It’s possible that I was always taking the least optimal route, but if that’s the case then it wasn’t made clear to me.
Each stage also has a par time to earn a star if you’re a score chaser. There are no leaderboards here so getting those stars is really to challenge yourself or gain achievements. There are multiplayer options though, including a local play mode in which players can race to the exit, although with two players on the keyboard and two more on controllers I imagine it could get rather crowded around a single screen.
The real online mode is the level creation utility though. All the different tiles in the game can be combined to make a level of your own devising, to be shared (and because this is the internet, judged!) online for other players to attempt. At the time of writing, there were 89 levels available from other players. You may find one created by yours truly! Just have a look for B3.
At the moment, there aren’t many levels which may be due to a lack of players right now. I would suspect that people are put off by the art style of the game. It doesn’t leap out, which is a shame as there is potential here, especially if creative level makers get hold of the editor and create something truly inventive. It’s a pity there aren’t leaderboards included as I feel that would driven people to compete over these online stages, especially the most impressive ones.
And that’s Tiles all over really: nice ideas but not quite executed well enough to get the attention the mechanics deserve. The developer is active in the community and has made adjustments to the game which have gone some way to improving it.
It’s worth having a look at what’s here if you’re interested in a minimalist and sometimes challenging puzzle game. It would be nice to see the team behind this develop their visual style and improve on a few missteps in the execution of their games as they move onto future projects as there is certainly a level of skill and creativity there ready to be poured into an excellent game.