STAFF REVIEW of Tiles (Xbox One)

Tuesday, April 24, 2018.
by Adam Dileva

Tiles Box art I’m always down for a good puzzle game. On one hand they can be very relaxing and a change of pace from typical shooters, racers and action games, on the other, difficulty can easily turn to frustration if something just doesn’t click. At first look, Tiles, created by lone man developer Romans I XVI Gaming, looks incredibly simplistic, and it is, but don’t let that lure you into a false sense of security, as you’ll eventually hit a brick wall of difficulty, or your fingers will become too tired to continue, one of which will come surely first.

As for Tiles’ presentation, don’t expect much in the visual department, as it's as minimalistic as it gets. Puzzles play out in a grid-like layout on top of a black background; that’s it. On a positive note, that means there’s absolutely no distractions, as you’re simply focused on the puzzle placed in front of you, nothing else. While catchy, the lopped music does tire over time, especially if you’re attempting to play for any length of time. There's also no attempt of a real tutorial, you’re simply thrown into a level and set out to figure everything out for yourself, so it can be a little confusing at first.

Your starting point is always on a green tile and your goal is to reach the red tile, but only after you’ve crossed every single blue tile on the screen first. Levels will start off easy, of course, then promptly ramp up in difficulty. If you think you can simply rush to the red tile to end the level before clearing each blue one, you’ll promptly be restarted and need to try again, so there’s some forward thinking needed to figure out the quickest and most optimal path. Oh, and blue tiles fall and disappear after a few moments, so you need to constantly be moving quickly and with purpose.

The biggest part of your strategy is not only figuring out the pathway to the exit while hitting every blue tile beforehand, but also timing your moves when you have to navigate with tiles that disappear quickly. The later stages are so elaborate that it will take some time to figure out the proper path, though the hardest part will be having the finger dexterity to actually do so in time accurately.

This is where the real difficulty for Tiles comes into play. The speed which you need to navigate stages becomes so incredibly fast that the majority of the time you die is because you’ve accidentally stepped one tile over too many into the abyss, prompting your level to reset. While I’d like to think I have pretty decent reflexes, as I’ve been gaming for over thirty years, the main problem with Tiles is that it forces you to use the D-Pad, and not the Thumbsticks, to maneuver your white tile around the level. Also, you can’t simply hold a direction, so when you’re plotting along a level with 50+ blue tiles to touch, along with others to avoid, you need to press the D-Pad every single time to move in the direction you want.

If the controller D-Pad’s were better, then maybe this wouldn’t be such as issue, but no matter what controller I tested it with, be it an original, Razer or an Elite, the D-Pad simply restricts your movement from being as nimble and quick as your mind wants to play. Tiles is also a Play Anywhere title, I also loaded it up on my PC to test it out, and it has the same problem, as you’re unable to simply hold the direction you want to move and are forced to tap the direction every single time, even on a keyboard.

Should you have someone in the household that you’d like to test your finger dexterity against, then you’ll be happy to know that Tiles also supports competitive multiplayer, seeing who can complete levels the quickest. I do appreciate how it’s simply drop in and out if someone wants to give it a shot without having to back out all the way to the main menu.

The main ‘campaign’ is filled with 90 levels, which, good luck if you’re able to complete them all, as I was unable to. If you do manage to somehow find a way to complete the dozens of levels, or simply get stuck and unable to progress, you’ll be happy to know that there’s much more content for you to enjoy, nearly an endless amount actually. Included is a level creator and sharing capability, so you have thousands of user generated stages at your (sore) fingertips. The level editor itself is very simplistic to use and figure out, choosing the grid size you want and then placing the different colors of tiles you want exactly where you choose. All you need to remember is what each color of tile does.

Blue: All of these must be stepped on before reaching the end red tile. If it’s the lighter shade of blue, it will need to be stepped on twice before disappearing.

Yellow: This tile falls at a predetermined time once the level has begun, even if you’ve stepped on it or not.

Orange: This tile constantly falls and reappears at set intervals.

Purple: A safe tile that never falls and allows you to ‘catch your breath’, well, rest your fingers, before continuing on.

Green: This is your starting tile. This needs to always be placed.

Red: The exit/goal to the stage once all blue tiles have been touched.

Keep these tiles properties in mind and you’ll be making some truly unique creations in no time. What surprised me was that since this is a Play Anywhere title, you can sort levels created by PC or Xbox players, so there’s tons of interesting creations for you to test your skills on. The user generated levels are very challenging and creative, as many players have even designed pixel style drawings that integrate into their levels in a clever way.

While Tiles is very basic in premise, the puzzle aspect of solving the proper pathway is quite entertaining. What isn’t as polished though is the forced D-Pad integration, as it’s quite difficult to do the moves you want to do in rapid succession because of it. Roughly 9 out of every 10 deaths were because I pressed the D-Pad too many times in a direction trying to keep up my pace, or accidentally pressing a wrong direction due to its imprecision. The later levels require your reflexes and speed to be near perfect, and trying to do so with the D-Pad alone is where the majority of the difficulty stems from.

Played in small doses, Tiles is a fun time waster if you’ve only got a short time to play something and don’t want to get too involved. You can plug away at the campaign levels or test out your finger dexterity with thousands of user created levels should you choose. Levels become quite involved and tricky to solve, and at some point your fingers will most likely tire because of the need to mash the D-Pad for every single move. If you’re looking for a fun puzzler for around $5 with near endless levels, Tiles has you covered, just prepare for a challenging and bland experience that will have your fingers begging for a break afterword.

Overall: 5.0 / 10
Gameplay: 6.0 / 10
Visuals: 3.0 / 10
Sound: 3.0 / 10


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