Thursday, August 24, 2006

Talismania Deluxe Review

Talismania Deluxe, developed and published by PopCap Games.
The Good: Simple mechanics, mini-games are a good diversion
The Not So Good: Each level feels the same, few tile orientations, game is too easy
What say you? The lack of challenge and variety hurts this puzzle game: 5/8

Everyone loves a good puzzle game. Well, maybe not everyone, but everyone who is interested enough in puzzle games to read this review. So there! Talismania Deluxe is a rotate-the-tiles-to-form-a-path type of game, which is a long description but I can’t really think of any way to make it smaller and still have you understand what I’m talking about. How is it, you ask? Well…

The graphics and sound in Talismania Deluxe both fall squarely in the middle of the pack. There are games that look better than Talismania Deluxe, and games that look worse. The backgrounds are detailed enough to be interesting, and the game board is clear and easy to understand. There are some special effects that are well done, like when you clear some tiles or activate a special piece. There are good sounds that accompany these graphical effects as well. The background music is good enough and fitting for the game’s overall theme. Really, the graphics and sound of Talismania Deluxe are exactly what you’d expect from a puzzle game: they aren’t awe-inspiring, but they are not disappointing either.

Talismania Deluxe features 40 levels spread over two modes: story (the main game), and hero mode that unlocks later on. In each game, you must connect a path between two animal heads that are located on the screen by rotating tiles. The game clearly indicates any present paths, so finding the connection is usually easy to do. Each path you create eliminates the tiles in the path, causing them to disappear from the map (and letting new tiles onto the map) and earning you coins. When you’ve collected enough coins, the level is over, so it’s better to make longer paths than the shortest distance in order to earn more coins in one turn. You can also earn extra coins by including bonus tiles in the path, and a column of tiles can be eliminated by having lightning blocks along the path. The faster you create paths, the more advanced animal heads you’ll get which will create better buildings (which are only score related). There are some medusa heads that will turn blocks to stone if you don’t eliminate them, which removes their ability to earn you coins. The game suffers a great deal from the lack of diversity in its gameplay. The basic premise is fine enough, but each level looks and plays identically to the last one. The only variation comes in the mini-games that crop up every once in a while; they involve clicking on flying objects for the most part. There is not much variety in tiles, either: they are either straight or angled with no real variety or crazy shapes to ramp up the difficulty. This makes finding paths and beating the game all too easy and not very exciting. Once you’ve played level one, you’ve experienced all the game has to offer. The overall goal of building structures with your coins may entertain small children, but it’s not a good motivator for older players.

While Talismania Deluxe is an adequate game at its core, the overall entertainment value is very low once you get beyond the first initial levels. There isn’t much motivation to keep players interested in the game, and the lack of variety in either shapes or tile types makes for some extremely repetitive gameplay. Talismania Deluxe is one of those games that are fun to play for about five minutes, and then you can move along to something new. There are other similar puzzle games that are much more entertaining in the long run; they offer more game modes or customized rules changes, neither of which is available with Talismania Deluxe. These slightly cheaper puzzle games just offer more replay value. Talismania Deluxe is an average puzzle game that wears out its welcome way too soon to compete with all of the quality offerings available on the market.