I thought it was time to do another videogame post. So let's see... what have I been playing recently? Have I been playing the new PS4 game that everyone's talking about, Last of Us? No. Have I been coasting the indie scene with Mousechief's game of 7000 years, the 7 Great Steps? Installed, but no. Have I been doing retro horror indie, with a playthrough of Limbo? Well, I thought hard about it. Have I been doing my dissertation research with a playthrough of Planescape: Torment? No again. No, all my time has been spent on this little number:
TToM3 is a tile-swap game. It's Bejewelled with a fancy new paint job, and a vaguely Mayan aesthetic. And for the past two weeks, it has owned my soul.
Let me back up a bit. A "Friend" forwarded me an invite to the Facebook game Candy Crush Saga, which is another Bejewelled clone, with a candy-aesthetic that is so annoying and cloying that I want to play only where I can be sure no one can possibly see me. But--and here's where I was surprised--the game had some depth to it. There was strategy to the shape of the levels, and the slow drip of the new bonus types. Then I hit level 20, and it told me I needed to invite three friends or pay 30 cents, and I said, well, forget that.
However, the tile tyrant was now in my blood. The multicolored monkey was on my back. And so I let myself be sucked into the world of Montezuma. So: it's a tile game. And it follows the simple tile rules. You have sixty seconds, you can swap tiles, line up three of the same color and the tiles disappear, granting you points, and giving you more tiles. Simple/. Except: first, there's the gems. You see, some tiles have gems attached to them. And for every gem tile you get, your score gauge goes up, until you hit a new level, and all the points after that are multiplied by whatever level you're on. Plus, at the end of the round, you get a bonus for each individual gem. So you're not just swapping tiles, you're swapping to remove gem tiles.
But. Speed is also of the essence, because there's a secondary gauge at the bottom, which increases as you make matches, and if THAT reaches it's full, then you score doubles for a short time called a SCORE FRENZY-- and that's on top of the gem bonus. So you want gems, but you also want speed.
But! You're not just going for any high score. You see, when you complete a level, if your score reaches a certain height, you unlock one of the emblems on the chest at hand. Unlock all the emblems for a chest, and you get a star. And if you hit the highest score, then you get another star. And the stars unlock the bonuses. What kind of bonuses? Well, one where, when you make a swap of four tiles, sometimes, a tile with a bomb on it appears, and when you successfully swap that bombed tile, then the ones around it go as well, a delightful explosion of points. There's the clock bonus, where--apparently at random but probably not--after you make a swap of four, sometimes a clock tile appears, and if you swap THAT tile, then you get time added to your clock. And there's a bonus where, if you match 5, there's a chance of a lightning tile appearing, which, when matched, wipes out all others of that color. AND there's another that does the same thing, but instead of wiping out others, it shows you possible moves. Finally, there's two more bonuses, one which adds to the total number of gems that appear on the screen at once, one which raises the ceiling on the score multiplier. And of course, all of these abilities are upgraded with more stars.
BUT! That is still not all. For in addition to these bonuses, the discerning player may also invest in Totems. Totems are another thing altogether. For each totem, you activate the bonus by matching two triple sets of the same color in a row. Two greens summons a totem that removes all gems currently in play and adds them to your count. Two blue summons one that shoots lightning and eliminates local gems. Two red does roughly the same, but with a slightly different dispersal pattern represented by fireballs. Two yellow activates the score mode regardless of your bottom gauge. Two orange adds time, in different amounts than the time icon.Two purples add special tiles, ala the bomb or the lightning tiles. And two whites change a random number of tiles into some other color. Usually, in my experience, it changes more tiles into white tiles, which is less than useful. But more strategy is clearly coming to play. You want to be fast, you want to get gems, but you also want to unlock totems.
And sixty seconds is the perfect length, too. Every time you play, you tell yourself, just one more round. It's just a minute. And then it's an hour later, and your children are at home going hungry because daddy's not coming home to feed them. (Okay, in my case, it's my roommate's dog, not kids, and I'm not responsible for feeding him anyway, but where's the drama in that?) And the worst part isn't the lost time, or the frustration of failure, or the notion there's a hundred hundred other games I could be spending my time on. No, the worst thing is that I'm totally obsessed with this game and I can't talk to anyone about it BECAUSE IT IS THE MOST BORING THING TO TALK ABOUT IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD.
Thanks for listening.