Review: Ludimate Tilelander

Sometimes you find a game with graphics and gameplay that just rocks your socks off. Tilelander is such a game. The website speaks of “puzzling action, beautiful graphics, thrilling and addictive gameplay”. All of this is true. Tilelander amazed me with the combination of puzzle and action elements that seemed familiar, combined with really nice and smooth graphics, animations and gameplay. That Ludimate (which you may know from Sensible Sudoku) also kept their promise when they said that it’s addictive became clear to me just two minutes ago. I’ve just discovered that the screen that I wanted to write this review in was already open for an hour, but I’ve just not been able to put my device away! I’ve been playing this game a lot this weekend, leading to a bit frustration from my girlfriend. She still kissed me goodbye when I left, so it didn’t cause any serious damage, luckily!

The game is a bit like Xonix, where you, the player, are a cursor. When you leave an existing tile using the D-Pad or your stylus, you leave a trail of tiles which stops when you reach another existing tile. If you or the unfinished trail gets hurt, you lose a life. If you finish a trail, which makes an enemy or weapon fully surrounded by tiles, the enemy is killed. But that’s just the rough foundation of the game, lots of weapons, items, and various tile types are added to the game in order to help or hurt you!

One remark before getting started with the review: don’t let the screenshot above fool you. Yes, there really is a lot of action in this game, but the screenshot was taken at a very extreme moment, there’s as much (or more) strategy involved too!

Installation and trial

Installation is straightforward. The game is available on several platforms, but the SmartPhone and PPC versions can both be downloaded from this page, the .exe installers for your pc can be found in the boxes and the .cab files are available below. After installation you will be able to play the first 10 levels of the game, before you have to register. Registering is done by checking your Device ID in the Register screen (available from the main menu). Enter it in the dedicated box here, and after walking through the purchase process you will recieve your Unlock code to unlock the remaining 60+ levels.

Menu screens, game instructions

After starting the game you are presented with the main menu screen.
“Play” takes you to the screen where you select your level. You can start at the last level you played, or the last checkpoint you created. This will happen at levels 0, 10, 20, etc. “Options” lets you set the game settings. The difficulty can be set from Easy to Hard. In all these modes, the enemies will only move when you move too. This means that when you’re thinking about your strategy, the enemies will not be able to get you. However, some (pretty few) weapons that are fired don’t live by this rule, so better make sure that you won’t get killed by one of these projectiles! If you really want to make this game difficult, set the difficulty to “Arcade!”. In this mode, all enemies will chase you; even when you don’t move! The game music and sound effects can be muted, or the volume can be changed. The music has the same style as the Ludimate website and the color scheme of this game: relaxing, easy to the eye/ear, and enjoyable.

“Highscore” shows you… Exactly, your high score! Under that, you see the highest level that you’ve been able to reach. Also displayed is a code (in the screenshot it is blurred), with which you can add your highscore to the online hall of fame. I’ve just submitted my current highscore, I should be around place 167… =P

What’s left are the “Instructions” and “Register”. Since the registration process is already covered, well just take a look at the instructions, which will tell you a lot about how the game is played. Just take a look at these screenshots, and we’ll discuss it more in-depth below!

Okay, so there’s a story line. I think the creative mind that came up with the story will be a bit disappointed, but just like Doug Goldring (in his review at JAMM), I don’t think the story adds anything to the game. The “player vs. enemies” idea doesn’t really need a story to be based on, especially not when the game is as much fun as Tilelander. When you scroll down, you see information about the tile types, and this is were you can already discover some strategy. If possible, you will want to fill the screen with Brick tiles. Since these are harder to destroy, it will be easier to surround an enemy with tiles without the enemy destroying one of the sides in the meantime.
The first item introduced here is the weapon. When you see this, approach this tile from one side to shoot a weapon to the other side. The fact that the weapon on the icon is pointed up clearly doesn’t indicate that you can only shoot one way! Also, when you’re on this tile, just keep pressing the D-Pad button or tapping the screen in order to fire multiple projectiles.

 
(the top part of the screenshot on the right is the same as the one on the left)

The Remote is also a weapon, but this one can be controlled while it’s “in the air”. While the initial direction of the projectile is based on from which side you approach the tile, you can change that direction by moving your Tilelander. So if you move up just one tile, the projectile will keep moving up. (This is one of the execptions to the rule that if you don’t move, other objects don’t move either.) 
The key icon is linked to a lock icon. If you see a lock icon blocking your path, a key tile must be available somewhere in order to open the path for you!
Then there’s the tile-creator. Touching this tile creates a path for you, while you can stay ‘safe’ on one place! Using this tile, you can sometimes create a structure of paths that makes it a lot easier to surround your enemies, so just stay on this tile and keep pressing that D-Pad button.
Flag icons are left when the last enemy is killed, but I usually try to avoid these. Finishing the level by covering the entire playing field with tiles gives you a ‘Perfect Level’ bonus, so taking the flag icons will keep your score down.
The shield is another item that can be used in a strategy. In a level with a big enemy (which doesn’t only fire different weapons but is also harder to kill than a small enemy), make sure that you have a Brick tile structure near a shield. Then, start on a brick tile, take the shield, and then quickly move into an enemy. Normally this will kill you, but your shield protects you for a short time. If you’re back on an existing tile before your protection runs out, tiles will be created ON the enemy! This has the same effect as a weapon, and since a brick tile is strong, having a brick tile path on an enemy could very well result in the easy death of that enemy!
Finally there’s the heart icon, giving you an extra life.

Gameplay

The developers of this game made a really smart move: they created a video of the gameplay! Let’s walk through the gameplay using this Youtube video. (x:xx) indicates the remaining time in the video at which you can see an example of what I’m describing.

On the top, you see your score, a bar representing your level progress, and the amount of remaining lives. Often this info covers the playing field, but it smoothy fades when your cursor reaches the top of the game to prevent interfering with the gameplay. Then there are green, regular tiles, 4 enemies, a “weapon” tile, and you, the + (plus) sign. As you start moving, you create a trail, which causes an enemy to explode when it’s surrounded (4:24). Moving over a weapon tile blasts a projectile in the direction you were moving to (4:17). Collecting the flags will immediately complete the level, even without fully covering the game screen.
Level 7 introduces the different tiles to the video (4:03). At 3:59 you see an example of an enemy projectile that doesn’t stop moving when you don’t move yourself. It’s also one of the heaviest enemy projectiles: it destroys a pretty big amount of tiles with just one hit! Luckily, these can also be destroyed by surrounding them with tiles (3:33). At 3:03 the lock/key combo is introduced. As you can see, you don’t need to touch a key (or shield or heart), just surrounding it with tiles will do! (3:03)
While most game screens cover just 240×320 pixels, quite some levels are spread over more screens. (2:50). “Remotes” are shown on 2:32, you fire them upwards, but after moving left, the remotes also continue their way to the left.
The next level shows you how fragile glass tiles are (1:52). When one glass tile is hit by an enemy, all glass tiles touching this tile are also destroyed! At 1:29 we finally see what happens if your unfinished trail is touch by an enemy projectile. You lose a life! Additionaly, at 1:15 and 1:04 we see how strong some enemies can be. Even when they’re fully surrounded, they need two ‘hits’ before they are killed!
0:50 shows some other enemy projectiles: these can move through green tiles without getting destroyed. When these rays touch brick tiles, they do get destroyed however. Finally, 0:37 shows a cool suggestion: let your remote projectiles fire blasts!

You see how a video like this can greatly help explaining the gameplay? Just some final remarks… See the grey corner in the rop right in the screenshot below? Pressing it pauses the game (so does pressing a softkey, which is often easier!). When the game is paused, you can change the game volume, and also abandon the current level or close the game. The only way to save your current position in the level is by minimizing, if you really close the game you will need to start from the beginning of that level. When starting a new game, you can start at the level you last played, or at level 0, 10, 20, etc. So you can’t just start at level 32, for example! While this is a bit annoying if you want to show a certain level to someone, this isn’t really a problem, since it makes it a bit more challenging to get to a certain level. And besides, you always have the option to start at the last level you played, so if you want to play level 35 and die at level 33, just start your new game at level 33.

Speaking of levels, there are a little over 70. Quite some levels are bigger than one screen, so Ludimate didn’t hold back on the level design. Also see how the levels aren’t just random tiles, but actually represent something?
At some point you will have finished the levels though, and you’ll be screaming for more. So if I could wish for one thing regarding this game, it would be for more levels. Or, ideally, a level designer and an online system to share levels. I have every faith that Ludimate could do this if they’d want to, looking at the quality of Tilelander, and the fact that there’s already a Highscore sharing system.

Conclusion

Ludimate Tilelander is a great example of how various good elements (Xonix, graphics, sound, gameplay, level design, etc) can be used as tiles to build a beautiful mosaic. I wish the amount of levels would be endless!

I really recommend Tilelander to anyone who doesn’t mind getting sucked into a game. While you are playing the game, you’ll find that all the aforementioned elements come together in a solid package of addictive fun which makes you forget about everything that’s not on your screen. Don’t play this game on family weekends, unless you allow your family to play too!

Finally, some essential information:
Tilelander is available for:
WM PPC and WM Smartphone (both for WM 2003, WM 5 and WM 6, square, portrait and landscape screen) for $ 14.95
Symbian S60 and UIQ, $ 12.95
Windows PC (98, 2000 and XP), $ 15.95.
I’ve tested it on my HTC Wizard, installed on storage card.

Website Ludimate
Tilelander product page
Download trial for PPC: .exe or .cab

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