Everybody knows the old saying: There is no “I” in team. Thankfully, there can be a “you,” however, courtesy of the brainteaser Girls Inc. TeamUp, which challenges groups of young ladies to navigate colorful, grid-based landscapes. While not the most audio-visually impressive or actively engaging mindbender we’ve encountered for desktop platforms, it’s nonetheless a light, refreshing diversion suitable for play in bite-sized installments.
Proving that plot is overrated, get ready to jump right in and tackle 50 levels of head-scratching fun… there’s no storyline supplied whatsoever. Instead, controlling groups of cartoon lasses replete with pigtails, braids and shiny-eyed spunk, you must simply help your comrades reach an exit cloud on every ethereal stage. Accomplishing this task is easier said than done though, as, despite the absence of a ticking timer and one’s ever-present ability to undo moves and restart each stage, obstacles there are aplenty. And, of course, the further you go, the trickier the overall difficulty level, no slouch to begin with, quickly becomes.
But first, a little explanation is warranted. Girls, represented as miniature figures on 3D landscapes that are viewed from an angled, isometric overhead perspective and divided into individual squares, fall into one of three classes: Jumpers can do just that, hopping up one level of gradation at a time. Sliders have the ability to manipulate crates inhabiting each environment, creating bridges or steps for their pals. Finally, throwers can hurl buddies four squares in any direction. All can further interact cooperatively in a handful of additional ways, whether that involves pulling one another up onto a ledge or standing on each other’s heads.
Deep the title may not seem on a surface level, but wait until you see each scenario in motion. While hardly awe-inspiring (new stages mostly involve different basic geographic configurations, obstacle layouts and extras ranging from river-crossing rafts to transport tubes, switches, stairs and elevators), every last challenge you’ll face following initial tutorials requires a surprising amount of brainpower to beat. Throw in collectible, bonus-bestowing fruit, and it’s enough to have even the most hardened keyboard jockey tearing their hair out in frustration. You’ll restart at least several times before beating the base collection of stages, with over 150+ additional levels available to download and a built-in level editor further extending the title’s brow-scrunching replay value.
Certainly, graphic and audio caliber isn’t anything to write home about. (Although catchy tunes you can turn on by poking randomly-located radios do help relieve some of the aural monotony, and the game’s low-fi pixel-happy aesthetic fits rather nicely.) Designed in conjunction with female-empowering non-profit Girls Inc though, it’s easy to understand the reason for the game’s limited production values. And, depending on personal preference, you may even find that the primitive but cheery presentation actually adds to the outing’s general charm.
We’d definitely like to have seen more personality evidenced by characters themselves. That does double for other obvious areas where room exists for improvement, i.e. the implementation of an overarching tale and additional gameplay twists and turns. But the user-friendly, straightforward mouse-driven player interface – click to move, interact with objects or help fellow heroines – and simple-to-learn, tough-to-master brand of play nevertheless do wonders towards extending the outing’s cross-gender and -generational appeal.
As such, Girls Inc. TeamUp is hardly what we’d call a knockout performance or the kind of title likely to grip you for more than a few minutes on end in any given sitting. Still, for anyone seeking a little lighthearted, low-maintenance IQ-building fun that puts women front and center, you could do a lot worse than this catchy mind-boggler. Download now and see for yourself today. Just remember: Here, four heads are better than one.