The fine folks from Pikaware contacted me a couple of weeks ago about doing a review for their upcoming iOS game Tile Enigma. I played a good 30 levels or so, and I found it to be a clever logic puzzle game that should appeal to anyone who likes that genre. It feels a lot like it belongs as a recurring puzzle type in the Professor Layton series.
If you want to read my full review of the game, jump on over to WOTS.
The game's free to play, so you might as well download it and give it a shot. There's IAP, but the first 40 levels are free, and all the puzzles can be solved without paying for "boosts" or "lives" or whatever.
After playing for a bit, I asked Tammy and Chris some questions, and they were gracious enough to answer. Some of that made it into my review, but I thought the full interview might appeal to some TAY'ers.
WOTS: Tile Enigma is a very unique puzzle game. I've been playing puzzle games for quite some time and I don't think I've ever played anything quite like it. What other games or ideas inspired you guys to make this? Did you iterate over a number of different puzzle designs before settling on this?
We started with game pieces that were two sided. The earliest iteration of the game was prototyped with pieces of cardboard, with bright paper taped to one side. In the beginning, we envisioned a game where you try to get all the pieces to be a matching color. But it is more interesting to match up just one row or column at a time— that way both colors are represented throughout gameplay. We really liked the quality of two opposites within the same game piece, and that neither side (blue nor yellow) is more important than the other; just that they are different but equally useful.
Having played many popular games in the match-3 genre, one of the aspects we felt was most satisfying from a gameplay perspective was the potential for cascading effects. We went through a number of iterations on ways to bring that fun gameplay element into Tile Enigma. Eventually we nailed it with echoes.
Another element that heavily influenced the game was Chris' former obsession with Chess tactics trainers. One year, he completed over 10,000 chess puzzles. This experience led to the idea of optimal move counts for each level.
Aesthetically, we liked the minimalist graphics of games like Strata and Dots and wanted to bring the same kind of clean lines and design to Tile Enigma.
WOTS: Despite the depth of the game (especially once echos come into play), the game is relatively simple to understand and interact with - there are just two colors to worry about, and interaction is just swipes and a double tap gesture. Was this low level of complexity part of the design from the start, or did you guys start out with something more complex and end up reducing it over time?
We're glad to hear the game appears relatively simple to understand and interact with. Both of those elements took quite a bit of focus to achieve. The tutorial system you see at the beginning of each world evolved over time. Early on in the beta stages we actually just had some animations explaining how the game worked and it's goal. We found that many players rushed through that stage and were then unsure of how to proceed when left unassisted. This led us to create our interactive tutorial system which helped convey both the goal of the game as well as the two different gestures: 1-finger drag and 2-finger tap.
WOTS: There's a wide variety of puzzles here, and each one feels unique. How did you guys come up with the puzzles?
Chris built a level editor so we could graphically arrange the levels in a web browser, and export it to the game code. This tool made it easier to iterate through level design ideas quickly. This is one instance where having a developer who can do more than just mobile development really pays off! Many levels we created didn't pan out in play testing, so we spent a lot of time with the level editor, creating new arrangements, and moving echoes around.
WOTS: The difficulty seems to ramp up pretty smoothly within the worlds. Did you guys find it difficult to organize the puzzles to ensure that they didn't get too hard too fast?
Play testing, play testing, and more play testing. We rearranged levels many times, and utilized our beta tester feedback to fine tune level progression. There was one day when both of us played all 100 levels— that was a doozy!
WOTS: I notice that at the moment you have 5 worlds and 100 levels. Are there plans to continue making levels for the game after launch, or do you think that Tile Enigma is complete as it is?
Yes, as soon as we have a critical mass of players reaching the last level, we'd love to make more level packs and possibly introduce new types of echoes. As it was, we pruned down the levels to 100 that fit well within the 5 Worlds. There is a lot more that can be explored within the framework of the game.
Tile Enigma launches today for iOS devices. You can grab it from iTunes if you want to check it out!