Tidalis shakes up match-3 with “streams” concept
Tidalis might be a puzzle game about matching blocks of the same color to clear them from the board, but it’s hardly a Bejeweled clone. And sure, those blocks might fall from the top of the screen, but it’s not Tetris. In other words, Tidalis is something pretty unique.
Tidalis is being developed for PC and Mac by Arcen Games, an indie developer best known for releasing the real-time strategy game AI War. Apparently there are a lot of closet puzzle game fans on staff as well.
Tidalis is currently in beta with a release planned for some time in July, but there’s a demo that lets you play through the first 15 levels of adventure mode and get a feel for the gameplay. The game’s major twist is the concept of “streams.” Each block has an arrow on it, and when you click on a block of a certain color, a stream of light will travel out of the block in the same direction as its arrow is pointing. If a stream hits at least two blocks of the same color, they’ll be cleared from the playing field. (Otherwise, streams will move straight through blocks of different colors, ignoring them.)
You can create longer streams by right-clicking the mouse on specific blocks to change the direction of the arrow, which in turn changes the direction of the stream. For example, a stream that hits a block with its arrow pointing upwards will travel up, and so on. Also, when blocks are cleared, the ones above fall into the empty spaces and set off streams of their own. In this manner, you can set up large combos and chain reactions to score maximum points.
New blocks are constantly falling from the top of the screen and piling up, and if a stack of them reaches the top, it’s game over.
There’s a lot that can be done with this basic concept, and we glimpsed a bit of it in the demo. In some of the levels, the goal was to clear a certain number of blocks, while in others you simply had to stay alive for a set amount of time. There were special blocks too, like a block with two arrows (that caused two streams simultaneously), and wildcard blocks that match with any color.
Besides Adventure mode there are also Quick Play sessions offering various difficulties and variations, from Zen – where it’s literally impossible to lose – to Frenzy mode where blocks appear three times as fast as normal, to the mind-bending Gravitron mode, where the force of gravity affects the direction of the streams in interesting ways.
Some features were disabled in the preview demo, so we didn’t get to take the level editor or two-player co-op modes for a test-drive, although they’ll be there in the final version.
Tidalis is a little more complicated to grasp than the average match-3, but if the developers can keep evolving the concept through all of the game’s levels (not just the first 15) then they just might be onto something incredibly fun. If you’d like to be notified when the game launches, be sure to set a Gamezebo alert!