People who are familiar with Hanako Games’ previous titles – fantasy/adventure fare like Cute Knight and Fatal Hearts – will be in for a bit of a surprise with Twinkle Toes Skating, a click-heavy puzzle game where you’re tasked with putting together flawless figure skating routines.
You’ll step into the ice rink with Yuki, a young woman who dreams of becoming a championship figure skater. Although she starts as a beginner who can barely skate in a straight line without falling, through determination she gradually masters each new step and gains enough confidence to put together stunning routines and earn dozens of medals.
Of course, she can’t do it without your help. The gameplay of Twinkle Toes Skating is a unique combination of match-3 and choreography. Yuki starts at one end of the rink and slowly makes her way to the other side; as she does so, you have to drag rows and columns of tiles in front of her in a specific order so that she performs her moves.
Drag green forward arrow tiles in front of Yuki, for example, and she’ll skate forwards, but put blue backwards arrows in front of her and she’ll skate backwards. Add a series of red tiles and she’ll execute a toe loop jump; add some dark blue tiles and she’ll do a spin; add some pink tiles and she’ll do a cute bunny hop sequence. You’ll also have to watch out for the cracked ice tiles, because if she skates over one of those she’ll fall and you’ll have to start the routine over again.
You can’t just create a routine by dragging tiles at random, and this is where the game’s challenge and ingenuity shine through. Generally, you have to arrange at least three tiles of the same type in a row in front of Yuki or she’ll trip and fall. Some moves, such as the glide, must be exactly three tiles, while others, such as the spin, can be as long as you like. Some elements can only be proceeded by specific tiles; for example, you must be skating forwards in order to lead into the bunny hop, and you must be skating backwards to do a toe loop.
For each level there are certain elements that must be included in the routine, which are spelled out beforehand. If there are any tiles left over after the required elements have been satisfied, you can round out the routine with whatever you like. You can earn different medals (bronze, silver or gold) depending on how big of a combo you’ve able to rack up. Earning enough gold medals will also unlock new outfits for Yuki to wear.
The fact that Yuki is constantly moving means you have to think and click fairly quickly to keep one step ahead of her. This is the biggest potential point of frustration for gamers who aren’t fast clickers and would prefer to be able to take their time. Sometimes I found myself feeling that Yuki moved a little too quickly, and that there was too much cracked ice and not enough useful tiles – worse still, sometimes the tiles I needed to make specific combos were nowhere in sight. There’s a practice mode, but since tiles are randomly generated anyway, I didn’t find it all that useful.
On the other hand, just when you think the gameplay is becoming unbearably difficult, the game throws you a couple of lifelines in the form of tiles that temporarily slow Yuki down to give you time to gather your wits, and wild card tiles that can fill in for anything.
Twinkle Toes Skating is presented in Hanako Games’ trademark anime-inspired art style, and people who enjoy watching figure skating will probably get a kick out of watching Yuki perform each move on the fly. A second mode, Free Skate, lets you compete for the high score by creating as long of a routine as possible in four levels of difficulty.
At the very least, I’d recommend download the free trial to see if Twinkle Toes Skating is up your alley. I found it to be a game that definitely had its pockets of frustration but proved to be more rewarding the farther into it I played.