Tidalis is a lovely puzzle game from Arcen Games which takes the old "match colours" idea and turns it on its head. Instead of simply matching rows of columns etc, you have send out a "beam" from one block that bounces around the others - not only do your blocks need to be the same colour, but they need to be facing the right direction.
You can get some idea what I mean from the screenshot above - the arrows show you which way the block is facing. Some face both ways, which can be very useful. You can see where the beam is - it can go three squares in any direction and will keep going if it gets to another block the same colour facing one of the three directions other than the one it's come from. (I guess that sounds a little confusing, but it makes sense when you play it!) You can end up with some long chains of blocks dissolving, and as a result the ones the drop down also send a beam out. It takes some practice to become skilled at setting off multiple levels of chain reactions, but the game is fairly intuitive after a few goes.
The controls work well enough - I never quite found it totally intuitive to use the right mouse button to drag the arrows into the direction you wanted, but it's probably the best available method the game designers could have used. Of course even with the extra twist on the colour-matching idea, this game could have become boring quite quickly if it weren't for the other features included. There are many different block types that come into play, such as the "Night and Day" blocks shown below, which react differently to normal blocks; also various power-up/blocks, obstructions and unhelpful items, and level-specific features such as gravity (or anti-gravity!) that affect how the beam travels.
There are several different play modes, difficulty modes, and local / network co-op and competitive multi player options. Just about anything a real puzzle game enthusiast could possibly wish for, in fact. But what if you - like myself - tend to like puzzle games of this nature for a short while, but then get rather bored of them? Tidalis even has a way round that.
You see there is a storyline, as you travel throughout the land of Tidalis with cut-scenes featuring Pokemon-like characters (see screenshots), with a silly but endearing plot about travelling through the world completing levels to get to the next stage. (Again, great game design here - if you're finding a particular level too difficult or annoying, that doesn't mean you have to give up on the whole game - you can simply skip that level and go back to it later.) The cut-scenes are often amusing, too, and the levels are very different in the challenges they present - you have a particular goal to complete in each one, some easy, some difficult.
My only real complaint about Tidalis is the music - not that it's poor quality or hard on the ears at all, but it seems a little lacking in variety and in long two-player games, the tune never changes (if that's my inability to see the right option to change, I apologise!). However overall it's a cracking puzzle game title - it looks great, is easy to pick up the basics but very difficult to master completely, has a nice story mode for people like me who often get bored with puzzle games normally, and as you'd expect from Arcen Games has some great multi player options. For players who are likely to only play it on their own I rate it 8/10, for those who are likely to enjoy playing it with a friend or friends, a mighty 9/10.
Windows System Requirements
OS: Windows 2000 or later, 32 or 64 bit
RAM: 512 MB (1 GB recommended)
CPU: 1.4Ghz minimum, 1.8 Ghz recommended for background animation or multiplayer
HDD Space: 600MB
* 800x600 or greater screen resolution (32 bit color, 1280x720 recommended)
* Internet Connection or LAN required for networked multiplayer
* There are no particular graphics card requirements; anything from the last 5-8 years should be fine.
Buy Tidalis or Download the Demo
CaptainD's PC Gaming Blog