Reviewed by Eric Pankoke
I’ll probably say this every time such a game comes along, but I love it when a developer takes a tested, seasoned concept and adds enough twists and turns to make it new and their own. Such is the case with Tilelander from Ludimate. The game obviously finds its roots in the classic Qix, but it won’t be long before you realize this isn’t your simple 80’s remake.
The premise behind the game is a bit silly, but then games like this were never really meant to have a plot. Tileland has been invaded by the Xyzons, and it’s up to you to stop them. “How?” you might ask. All you have to do is fill each level with tiles. Well, actually you can get away with just filling most of the level with tiles. Whenever you capture the last Xyzon on a level they will leave some flags, and this will help you complete the level without totally filling it. So how do you fill a level with tiles? You start each level “attached” to a tile. As you move around the level you create a trail, and as soon as you touch another tile the trail becomes a solid wall of tiles. If you touch a tile that will cause an area to be enclosed, all the space enclosed in that area will be filled with tiles. Additionally, any Xyzon caught in that area will be destroyed.
Xyzons aren’t going to just let you surround them without a fight, however. The enemy will move around the screen in an attempt to destroy you. Some simply move up and down or left to right. Others will travel all around the screen in random patterns, while some will actually gravitate towards you. Certain Xyzons will actually produce other Xyzons to hunt you, while the shy kind will stay back and shoot at you any opportunity they get.
So besides capturing the enemy in tiles, how do you defend yourself? That’s where Tilelander sets itself apart from other games of this type. In many levels you have guns scattered throughout the screen. When you run into a gun it fires in the direction that you were moving. The second item you have to aid you in your quest is a tile that will actually create more tiles for you. At first this didn’t seem very useful, but it turns out that if you create a tile on the same area that a Xyzon is moving to, it will actually kill the Xyzon. The third, and in my opinion coolest, item at your disposal is a cloning device. This will create a “duplicate” of your ship that moves the same direction you do. However, if you move left and then stop, the clone will keep moving. In addition, clones can trigger guns, use the tile creation devices, and kill Xyzons by running into them (though some take multiple hits by clones). There are a few other items at your disposal as well, but you can check those out when you play the game.
There are two modes in the game. Arcade mode plays just as you’d expect from everything I’ve described above. The second mode, which comes in Easy, Normal and Hard flavors, has one interesting quirk to it. Xyzons will only move when you do! This restriction does not apply to Xyzon projectiles, though. However, if Xyzons only move when you do, and clones move even when you stop, hopefully you can see a huge benefit to clones in this mode. Personally, I prefer the second mode, though Arcade mode would provide an additional challenge if you’ve played through all levels in the other mode.
When I first started playing this game it seemed like just an above average Qix clone with a few twists. The more I replayed various levels, however, I really started to gain an appreciation for the work and creativity that went into coming up with some of these levels. A few of them were a bit tedious if you had to play them repeated times, but that was the exception to the rule. Some of them were brilliant, and you could tell by the themes that these guys have been video game fans for a long time, which was really neat.
The graphics in Tilelander are fairly simplistic, but serve the game well. Each of the Xyzons has a unique and discernable look, and of course your spaceship stands out from the crowd with its sleek, plus sign exterior. What’s really enjoyable about the graphics, however, is how the different tile types are used to create recognizable images of everything from Elvis to a stock market graph. Sometimes it’s almost a shame to have to ruin the cool designs Ludimate has created.
As with most puzzle games, the sound effects are nothing special, though everything did compliment its corresponding action. I did appreciate the fact that each tile type had a unique sound both when filling in an area and when being destroyed. The music was a mixed bag. What I heard of it was okay, but it seemed like on many levels there either wasn’t music or it was not playing correctly. On several occasions there was a lot of crackling but no sound, which lead me to believe that maybe their audio system wasn’t working 100% correctly on my machine.
- Some nice twists to a vintage concept
- Several really well done level designs
- An overall polished package
- Only being able to save every ten levels
- “Only” seventy levels
- Potential audio problems
The beauty of the Pocket PC is that it’s still trying to find its niche, so developers don’t feel constrained to the mass-market mentality that console developers have. As a result you get games like Tilelander, which takes a concept that works and makes it something unique. Hopefully this is just the first of many products to come out of the Ludimate stable.