Just how much attention did you pay in your craft classes back in school? That’s probably not a question you’ll find yourself asking all too readily when you start up most apps on your iPhone, but Tesserae, despite its familiar grid-based play, is not your average puzzler, charging you with making use of poster paint politics in order to clear a board of pesky tiles.
If it’s not an oxymoron, Tesserae subscribes to the idea that some of the easiest games to play are actually the hardest to conquer. Though your actions never venture beyond tapping the screen, in actuality, getting to grips with just what’s on offer here does take some getting used to. In short, you’ll spend your time flipping tiles over each other on Tesserae’s 8×7 board, changing the colours of the tiles you skirt over as you do so.
The aim is a simple one – to clear the board of all but one tiles. Doing so is a case of literally ‘jumping’ one over the other, the tile essentially moving two grid squares with the one in the middle disappearing. It’s the colour of the square it lands on that is of most interest, however, with Tesserae’s colour-coding system posing the most headaches.
Basically, there are seven different coloured tiles available in play – the primary colours of red, yellow and blue, plus secondary colours (made out of two primaries) of green, orange and purple, with three primary colours combined resulting in a grey tile. Primary tiles essentially hold all the power, being the only tiles that can jump and be removed from the board.
The secondary tiles simply pop up when two primary tiles combine, with red and yellow forming an orange tile, red and blue resulting in a pink tile, and so on. The only way to rid yourself of these secondary titles is to lift one of the primary colours that formed it out of its palette, i.e. removing the blue from a green tile will restore it back to yellow.
Sound complicated? Well, it is rather, and getting used to how these rules translate to actual play on the grid does take some time, the first few goes usually resulting in you playing yourself into a corner, no further moves available with tiles aplenty still laid out all over the screen.
There isn’t really any way around such difficulties; Tesserae is a puzzler in the ‘old school’ sense of the word, with no power-ups available for repeated play or bonuses for picking off tiles in quick time. Instead, this is a game that requires planning – if a move is likely to leave you with a secondary tile, is there any way of converting it back to a primary? If not, have you already taken a wrong turn that’s landed you in this position in the first place?
If you’re asking yourself such questions, then it’s probably already too late. Mastering Tesserae’s grid really does only come from repeated play, failed attempt after failed attempt fuelling restart after restart. As a result, Tesserae really isn’t a puzzler that will suit all and will likely leave those hoping for a slightly brighter, (ironically) more colourful package feeling rather cold. But for those who find the endless stream of match-three puzzlers tired and trite, this is the perfect antidote, serving up a similar method of play without the added knobs and bobs that, for some, are a touch distracting.