TINY ROBOT, BIG CHALLENGE
Last year, developer Swing Swing Submarine released a PC puzzle game called Tetrobot and Co. The game was received lovingly by puzzle fans. Just a few days ago, the game was ported to Wii U by Neko Entertainment. So how does it fare on Nintendo’s home console?
In Tetrobot and Co. the objective is to repair small, cubic robots by sending microscopic Psychobots inside them to repair damage and collect memory blocks. It may sound a little bizarre, but when you see it in action it somehow makes total sense. These tiny Psychobots can absorb various blocks of matter and throw them around the level to help you progress.
In the first few levels, players become acquainted with the controls and some of the different types of matter. This is all accomplished with very little instruction, which is great; the game is so simple it needs no instruction. The controls work beautifully on the Wii U GamePad. Simply tap where you want Psychobot to move, pick up blocks by tapping them, throw them where they need to go, and head to the exit (you can also use the joystick and buttons, but it’s a bit more cumbersome). Along the way, keep an eye out for the three memory blocks which are scattered around each level.
Sounds easy, right? Well, it’s not. Many of the levels are fiendishly difficult. Getting to the exit is a fair challenge on its own, but finding all three memory blocks in every level will strain anyone’s little gray cells.
The difficulty comes in the variety of different blocks (wood, iron, stone, slime, etc.) which can be affected by level elements. Send wood through a laser, and it starts on fire, while doing the same to sand will turn it into glass. Slime sticks to walls, so you can use it to hold blocks up, but its stickiness also prevents you from sending it through narrow corridors. In addition, Psychobot cannot pass through lasers or electric beams, so it’ll often have to fling blocks across the room to hit a switch or block off an obstacle. You’ll also run into walking blobs, which can help or hinder depending on their location (and whether or not they are on fire).
While Psychobot does not have hit points or lives, blocks can be destroyed or trapped, which can keep you from collecting memory blocks or even from reaching the exit. Fortunately, the game has a rewind feature which backtracks one command each time it is pressed. The game keeps track of every command, so there is no limit to the number of rewinds. This feature is key, since one wrong tap can send Psychobot or an important block to certain doom.
The game’s graphics are beautiful. Subtle, animated backgrounds move about behind the scenes, while Psychobot and the blocks are all neatly drawn, but not too flashy. The music is (generally) soothing and fits the game’s style. There are soft modern tones, often mixed with 8-bit melodies. It has that ‘indie charm’ you find in games like VVVVVV and Minecraft. There are one or two tracks that can become annoying after hearing them over and over, but for the most part the music is very enjoyable.
As each Tetrobot is repaired, a little more of the story unfolds. Granted, there’s not much story here, but a puzzle game doesn’t generally need a good story (or one at all really). There are, however, a number of humorous references to well-known video games (Portal, for one), which seasoned gamers are sure to appreciate.
Honestly, there’s not much in the way of flaws here. I did notice that sometimes when I tapped a block to absorb it, Psychobot would try to move to the block instead, although whether that’s due to my poor stylus aim or a game flaw is debatable. I also noticed some minor glitches when rewinding. For example, if I destroyed a block and pressed rewind as the block was being destroyed, the block would still be missing from my inventory. All it takes is an additional rewind to resolve this, but it can be troublesome if you don’t notice right away.
The Verdict: 8.4 out of 10
All in all, Tetrobot and Co. is very enjoyable. It looks, plays, and sounds great, with only a few hiccups here and there. The game is very difficult, though whether that’s a pro or a con will depend on the person playing. While many levels can be completed in mere minutes, others can take well over an hour to solve. Sometimes, when I’d be taking a break from the game, I’d find myself staring at kitchen tiles trying to decipher puzzles. Anytime I saw a grid I’d start to imagine what blocks I could pick up and where to put them. I love it when a puzzle game overflows into real life. I think maybe I actually inherited a Psychobot and it was moving blocks in my brain to help me solve puzzles. They should probably advertise that feature.
This review is based on a review copy of Tetrobot and Co. which was provided by the publisher. The reviewer completed 100% of the game over approximately 20 hours.