This is the first review I have struggled to write. I sat at my laptop with all of my notes, thinking of the many different ways I could write this review. At first I was going to just go off my notes verbatim for comedic effect, they read like a person who’s being tortured. With notes like “Oh god, they’ve added shapes now?!” and the like. I feel like that would be disingenuous though. It’s pretty evident that this game was made to be the next 2048 or the next Sudoku like game. For people who adore those games and are just craving to get their hands on another math filled grid based Japanese style puzzle game, I will happily recommend this game to you. Here’s the thing, I’m one of those people though. I adore crushingly difficult math puzzles that switch between common core math and certain forms of algebra with entire paragraphs of rules. If they make sense that is.
I’m going to do my best to breakdown the rules of this game, I have a feeling this may not go well. The most basic explanation I can give you is: You match two of the same number to make the next highest number (Ex. 8+8=9) or you connect two numbers to make Pi, which in this game is 15 (Ex. 8+7=15 or 14+14= 15). Now once you make Pi you need to connect one of the three instances of Pi that are on the screen. Two matching Pi symbols make a white “Nom” and two non match Pi symbols make a black “Nom”.
You connect both White and Black Noms to create what is called a void. A Void is an open hole on your playing field that can be filled with any number, element, or nom. As you are multitasking on all of this, number's, elements, noms, and voids are all sliding up and down and back and forth as you are connecting everything else. There are claws also that come into play. These claws get hungry too and grab the most necessary thing you need. The entire time that all of this is happening you have to be careful where you connect all these things because the tiles you connect on will Gray out. When all the tiles are Gray, the game is over and it tallies up your score and the stuff on the grid to give you a final score. The entire point of it all is to beat the target score on each level. All of this is just on the tutorial level (except it only uses two instances of Pi and not all three that I mentioned) and after two hours on the tutorial level I finally beat it. After my nine hours of playing this game, I can absolutely decimate the target score for the first level.
Here's the thing though, that's just the tutorial level. When you reach level two, shapes and a third version of Pi is added. I could not beat the second level. I spent SIX HOURS playing level two, over and over and over. I was playing it to review, I wanted to see the rest of what this game had to offer. You can’t stop on the second level. So I decided to “cheat”, there is a mechanic in the game where you can hit “Y’’ on the controller and it shows you the next best move. So I figured to just hit that from the very beginning move and let the level beat itself so I can move on. That's not what happened though, It ran out of moves. The game lost to itself. A thing who’s only job is to know how to play this game in its best possible way, lost. That means one of two things, either these levels are so random that you can lose before you even started thanks to luck, or this game is such complicated nonsense that even the “best move” mechanic doesn’t really understand what its supposed to be doing.
If Fourtex Jugo stuck to the mechanics of the first level and maybe added more deadly traps as you progress (which they do among all the other mechanics) I could really get into this. By hour four on the second stage I kept going back and demolishing that first level because it felt nice to beat a stage. This game made me feel like an absolute moron and that leads me to my next thought. I can’t figure out if I’m too much of an idiot to play this game or if this game was just made by an absolute madman.
There is a feature where you can watch people who beat a level, play that level move by move. So I clicked on the guy who has the number one place in the worldwide leader board and followed what they did. I didn’t do nearly as well but I beat stage two by the skin of my teeth. By stage three you are hit with spikes and the omega symbol on top of, Three versions of Pi, three different shapes, Noms', numbers, elements, voids, claws, graying tiles, everything sliding every which way as you make all of these connections and moves, and don’t forget about that constant pressure of running out of moves at anytime. This game broke my brain not by difficulty but just by the sheer chaos of everything going on. This game is for someone, look at the the leader boards. People are playing this game and love it enough to get the highest scores from all around the world. When I received the key for this game I was downright excited to get my hands dirty and spend at least 15 hours straight full of puzzles and math. For the most part that’s what I got but with a thousand different mechanics screaming for your attention at one time.
The sound I have a slight issue with as well. For the most part, the soundtrack is one note being held on a keyboard and slowly being let up while another key is being played (that's the best I could make of it at least) and it is absolutely hypnotizing. I have never zoned out on a game so damn hard in my life, It feels like there is something intentionally going on here to forcibly make you zone out. It’s really weird. Here’s my issue though, as you click on a single tile it holds another note down, then when you connect to tiles to each other it makes a note one octave higher. Sometimes that high note gets stuck though and makes your ears bleed until you restart the level. That needs to be fixed pronto. Weirdly enough I haven’t seen any complaints on the Steam message boards about this, so I may be the only person with this issue. The game has you so zoned out at times that when you connect the wrong tiles the error sound will jolt you right out of your seat.
The graphics are very minimalist and enjoyable. They do exactly what they’re supposed to do and they are almost necessary. There’s no way I could play this game if the graphics were even the least bit more detailed. When you just have the numbers on screen, its very reminiscent of games like Sudoku and 2048. A bunch of numbers on a sliding grid. Again, if that sounds like your jam then absolutely give this game a look. Who know’s, it might make perfect sense to you and I really am just that dumb. Without trying to sound extremely narcissistic, I’m pretty sure that's not the case though.
All in all, I appreciate the effort that went into this game. When I take a look at any indie game I always remind myself that the game I’m playing is somebodies baby. Someone has spent the last two years of their life perfecting the game that is currently in front of me. So I try to be as kind and open minded to every game that comes across my desk. With that said I say these final statements in the kindest way I can, I absolutely loathe this game. It caused all kinds of anxiety issues and strange zoning out effects. I felt like I was on a bad drug trip while trying to solve math and puzzle matching problems. I see the effort Salty Dog Digital put into this game with all of it’s rules and mechanics. Unfortunately it all fails when you almost have a breakdown from being overwhelmed by a thousand different thoughts at every single move.