Since I began reviewing Pocket PC games, I have found that it is rare to find a truly original game. Many of the games I play fit neatly into one category or genre, and stay within the predefined rules of that genre. Although some games may offer updated graphics or new features, it is rare to find a game that is not based on or a derivative of another game.
Recently, we received an email from Ludimate, developers of a new game called Tilelander. When I first looked at the screen shots, I mistakenly referred to it as a cross between Centipede and Arkenoid. I quickly recognized my mistake, however, once I started playing. If this game can be compared with anything, I would say that gameplay resembles Xonix, but even that is more of a distant cousin than anything else. The more I played and enjoyed Tilelander, the more I realized I had never seen anything like this before. It was…refreshing.
Installation and Registration: Download the trial version and install it via ActiveSync. The trial version allows you to play a limited number of levels before you must register. Registration is a bit complicated. There is a device ID within the game. When you purchase the game, you must send that device ID to Ludimate, who will, in turn, send a registration code which is linked to the game’s device ID (note that this is different than your device’s Owner Name).
The Story: I have to admit, I pretty much ignored the story in this game. It would be better if Ludimate would just drop this forced back story, because it is in no way necessary to your enjoyment of the game.
Nonetheless, you must save Tileland from the invasion of the evil Xyzon Empire by filling tile areas and using special items such as blasts, remote controls and generators to repel and destroy the invading forces.
Graphics: The graphics in Tilelander are reminiscent of some of the games I used to enjoy back in the 1980′s — only with much smoother gradients and crisper lines. There are no complex 3-D animation cut scenes. No finely drawn backgrounds. No complicated characters. In other words, no distractions.
This game is about you, the tiles, and your enemies. Nothing more. And nothing more is needed. Tilelander could have incorporated the latest in 3-D graphics. It could have created complex worlds in which to play. It did not do so, because it did not need to do so. Ludimate wisely spurned more complicated graphics, in favor of only those graphics which were necessary to further the game.
This is the kind of game, however, that really lends itself to a custom level generator. It would be a tremendous addition if the developers considered including a custom level generator in future versions. This would allow users to continue playing long after the existing 70 levels have been completed. I have seen other games which allow users to create custom levels and offer them online to other players. In such cases, sharing custom made levels has significantly increased my understanding and enjoyment of the game.
Gameplay: Gameplay is fairly simple, but do not mistake that for meaning the game is easy. The game is based on block tiles, which are used both to protect you and to destroy your enemies.
Each level (levels are typically the size of a single screen, but some are slightly larger) begins with a preset arrangement of tiles (many of the tiles are arranged and titled with good humored references to some of your favorite games of yesterday (Pole Position, Pac-Man, and Tetris), or other common societal or cultural references. For example, the level titled, "Stop! That’s Forbidden!" has tiles arranged to look like a giant apple.
Anytime you move off of a tile, you leave a trail connecting you to the last tile you touched. Reach another tile safely and your trail will turn into new tiles. If either you or your trail are touched by an enemy then you will lose a life (you start each new game with three lives).
The object of each level is to destroy all of the enemies on that level. You can do this by surrounding them with tiles. Once an area is surrounded by tiles, the space contained within that area will be filled with new tiles as well. Any enemies trapped inside will also be destroyed. Likewise, you can use various helpful items found throughout the different levels to destroy your enemies. Once all of the enemies on each level have been destroyed, you will be awarded blue flags. Collect the flags and you will complete the level. In order to maximize your score, however, ignore the flags and fill the screen completely with tiles. This will give you a Perfect Level Bonus.
When you finish a game, don’t forget to visit Ludimate’s web site and post your high scores. Compare your best scores to the scores of other players from around the world.
Tiles: The game features four different tile types. These are your life lines, as the tiles can protect you and help you destroy your enemies. Each type of tile behaves differently:
- Green: these are the standard tile type. They are not strong and can be destroyed by most invaders
- Glass: these are the weakest tiles. If a glass tile (white) is touched, all of the glass tiles attached to it will be destroyed
- Brick: these are stronger than green tiles, and may take several hits to be destroyed by an enemy
- Steel: these are completely unbreakable, and create an impenetrable barrier both to your enemies and to you. Steel tiles are gray. While you can use them to your advantage, you cannot create new ones.
Helpful Items: Along the way, you will also find several helpful items, which you can use to destroy enemies:
- Weapons: touch a weapon and it will fire in a straight line in any direction.
- Remote units: touch a remote unit and you can control it from across the screen. Crash a remote unit into an enemy to destroy it.
- Generators: touch a generator to build new tiles.
- Keys: grab a key to open a locked area
- Shields: touch a shield to be temporarily protected from attack
- Hearts: give you an extra life
Enemies: This game features a menagerie of different enemies, each of which attacks you in a different manner. Some move along a straight path, some chomp through your tiles like Pac-Man, others fire bullets or death rays at you. As you progress through the game, the method of attack becomes more complex and more difficult to evade. One nice thing about your enemies, however, is that they will only move if you are moving . If you stop, then they will also stop, giving you an opportunity to plan your next move (their bullets and rays, however, will not stop once fired). Of course, this can work against you as well. On several levels, I had to keep moving in order to make the enemies move enough to reach an area where I could destroy them.
Saving: This game consists of 70 levels, organized into seven groups of ten levels each. A checkpoint at the end of each group allows you to start a new game from the beginning of that group of levels. Higher levels, however, are locked until you reach them.
It would be nice, however, if the game also featured a continue option. Such an option would allow you to stop playing in the middle of a game and continue playing where you left off. As it is, each time you close the game, you must start a new game from the beginning of a group of levels. This can become frustrating because I frequently do not have enough time to complete a full game in a single sitting. Often, I will be five levels into a game when I have to leave to do something else. When I return, I’ll have to start over again from the beginning of the group (and lose my score).
Conclusion: I absolutely loved this game! While the rules of the game are simple, gameplay can become extremely complex as the game progresses; making it one of the most enjoyable and original puzzle games I have ever played. With 70 levels, you will quickly find yourself absorbed in the intricacies of this game, although a custom level generator would allow for an unlimited number of puzzles to share and enjoy. This is the kind of game that will leap off the console and leave a lasting impression, along the lines of Pac Man, Donkey Kong, Tetris and other iconic video games that helped shape a genre.
Platform: WM 2003 SE
Also Available: WM5, Smartphone, Windows, Symbian
Available From: Ludimate
Price: $15.95 ($14.95 for Smartphone)