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Monday | September 24, 2018
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Almost everyone has played Tetris at one time or another, and the sales of this game across the various platforms have been a testament to its success. TiQal, created by developer Slapdash Games is a game set in the same genre, now available as a download on the Xbox 360 store for 800 points.

You take control of an Aztec citizen searching for solutions to his tribe’s various problems and the story is split into many block clearing levels. Just like Tetris the object is to clear sections of same coloured blocks, however it shares more with Lumines as you are able to combine square clusters of four or more blocks causing an explosion. As a bonus you can combine additional blocks with already clustered sections to expand the area, and subsequently increase your score. The bigger the better, as they say! It is a fine balancing act, as ideally the more blocks per explosion the better, however if pushed too far the block levels can get dangerously high and a life is subsequently lost. The game mechanic works very similarly to Lumines in that to cause a section of blocks to explode nothing should be attached to it for a few seconds.

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The high definition graphics are very colourful and there are some nice shatter effects when you complete a block section, matching by a pumping sound track to set the mood.

Bonuses for completing large block areas fill a meter which in turn gives the player a variety of power ups. When a power up becomes available it raises from the bottom of the screen and it must be captured by the block dropping tool at the top. These power ups vary from speed decelerators to block blasting weapons and add a nice edge to the game play.

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As I mentioned, the graphics are very nicely coded and they all fit in with the Aztec theme such as the Spears of Mixcoatl power up which causes a row of themed spikes to pop up from the ground causing the blocks in their path to explode. The Hearts of Ix Chel are collected during the game and in sets of 20 they combine to award the player extra lives.

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Level design is on a par with some of the best puzzle games I have played with plenty of variation, and they get harder the further you progress. Early levels for example would have slower appearing blocks and later the game throws quite a few curveballs into the mix such as a stone dais appearing to make certain sections almost impervious to destruction. The blocks are themed to match the corresponding level, fire levels for example would be full of flaming red and burnt orange coloured blocks while obviously the watery levels contain blues and purple blocks. Special credit really needs to go to the art team behind TiQal for the little attention to detail touches scattered throughout the various stages.

As you complete these levels you are awarded more powerups as well as key quest items, additionally new block shapes and locations become available.

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The  same level of enthusiasm applied to the graphics by the development team is thankfully mirrored on the audio front as well, with rip roaring jungle tribal dance music as well as a plethora of explosions, from stones breaking to glass shattering. Cleverly the developers have also included audio pacing changes when the game becomes tense, such as when the bricks get close to the top of the screen. It really is exceptionally well executed especially when you consider the game is just a download from the 360 store.

The online aspect of the game is fun, however there seemingly are few people playing right now but the local cooperative adventure multiplayer mode helps to cover the bases. That said, I am not really that fond of this mode because with you and a friend trying to complete the same levels as single player, the fight for room becomes a little overwhelming at times.

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It is not often I review downloadable content from the Xbox 360 store, however I made an exception with TiQal because it really is a jewel in the rough. Sure enough if you aren’t a fan of puzzle games this will not appeal to you, however if you like Lumines and Tetris then this is sure to be a good value purchase. The game is well coded, has great level variety and only costs 800 points. It is simple, beautiful to look at, and fiendishly addictive.

A very addictive puzzle game, sure to pass many an hour.
Colourful, explosive and fun.
Great backing music with some wonderful sound effects.
Well worth the 800 points from XBOX Live.
(Not an Average)

Bored, can’t sleep? well worth a purchase.

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About Author

Stuart Davidson

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