It may be called Talismania but there’s far too long a wait before the “mania” portion kicks in. And by far too long, we mean a good quarter of the game.
Until that point, you’re restricted to Story Mode which is where you’ll learn to play the game and spend your time in what is described as “meditative puzzle building.” We remember taking yoga lessons which always ended with five minutes of meditation in a dark room. After two, our meditating would regularly turn to loud snoring, probably the reason we were invited to leave. Since then, we’ve always tried to separate our gameplaying from our meditating.
To be fair, there’s plenty to learn and do in Story Mode before you’re ready to move on to something a little more exciting. You play the part of King Midas who has accidentally turned his daughter into gold and must atone for his sin by earning coins to be used for good, not greed.
For example, the first goal is to rebuild a kindly old couple’s house which has been destroyed by lightning. Your crew of builders will gladly create a lovely home for them, but not without getting paid.
In order to accumulate the coins you need for their wages, you must connect magical talismans by building pathways between them. You do this by clicking on tiles that then rotate into position; the longer the pathway, the more coins you collect. Learning the moves is a snap thanks to an extended tutorial with tips that pop up at appropriate times and can be turned off whenever you’ve had enough.
But because this is the meditative portion of the game, nothing is timed, moves aren’t counted. In fact, you can spend as much time as you’d like clicking and rotating, which may or may not lead to snoring.
Is it a challenge to accumulate the correct number of coins that will entitle you to progress to the next round? Not really. Create a long path, earn coins. Aim to connect gold talismans rather than silver or bronze, earn more coins. Insert power-ups, like bonus blocks and lightning blocks, get even more coins. Clear the level before the bonus chest counts down to zero, more coins. Eat your vegetables, make your bed, and always look both ways before crossing and, well, you get the idea; coins are plentiful.
But what you wouldn’t know (although you do now) is that, once you get past the first two of the eight sections of the game — once you have completed building the temple — Hero Mode is unlocked. Until then, you just wonder why, when the game begins, the Hero Mode icon has a big lock on it. I thought perhaps I was being punished for something.
At that point, as soon as the lock comes off, we implore you to abandon Story Mode and scoot over to Hero Mode; that’s where the game springs to life and your blood really gets pumping! Now you need to crank out those pathways quickly, knowing that you really ought to make them longer to earn high points but, if you make them too long, you’re never going to beat the clock. And if you run out of time, it’s bye-bye Midas.
Why you need to slog through one quarter of Talismania to discover the addicting portion of the game, we don’t know. We would have also preferred a digital countdown timer instead of the clock that swings from sun up to sun down with no clear indication of exactly how many seconds you’ve got left.
Talismania packs a lot of creativity into a small bundle. The backstory in which you encounter various Greek gods is engaging, the cutscenes in which your coins pay for the construction of assorted structures are cartoon-like and amusing, and both the graphics and the musical score contribute to a very pleasant experience. In between levels, there are mini-events, like trying to click on the 16 Arrows Of Artemis or the 16 Hammers Of Hephaestus which, if you succeed, earn you even more coins … plus a “fun fact” (Did you know that Artemis was one of the few Greek goddesses to remain chaste and unmarried? No, we didn’t either.)
But we believe a really great game grabs you and makes you feel that if you play “just one more time,” you’ll do better than you did the time before. Talismania will do that for you … but only if you can wade past the meditating and find the good stuff.