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TiQal on Game and Player


Michael Ubaldi  //  April 1, 2008

An embellishment of Alexey Pajitnov's classic Tetris.


n TiQal," states developer and publisher Slapdash Games, "you have been chosen to make an epic journey through many obstacles to seek the help of the gods." The action-puzzle game, priced at 800 Microsoft Points on Xbox Live Arcade, sets players as the advocate for a stricken Mesoamerican village. Spirits must be appeased, and to beg their audience, formidable (and rectilinear) challenges must be overcome.

Like Tetris — with blow darts,
drums and chanting.
TiQal will, for any player over the age of 25, instantly bring to mind Alexey Pajitnov's Tetris. All elements of gameplay are there. Randomly selected shapes made of colored, square blocks appear at the top of the screen, and must be placed onto a perpendicular surface below. Shapes, as they accumulate, form irregular patterns that locally interlock with others. By fitting shapes into solid sections, players win points and, when those sections disappear, a little more time — because if shapes pile to the top of the screen, the game is over.

The 'Jaguar Strike' power-up clears
all blocks of one color.
But for an ethnic New Age soundtrack and blocks shaped like Mayan entablature, is this just a Tetris knockoff? Not quite — even on a basic level, TiQal differs slightly, but considerably enough for Slapdash to embellish Pajitnov's classic.

Time in TiQal is not as dictatorial. Shapes don't fall toward the surface, as in Tetris, but are deposited when a player so chooses. And while the surface itself rises regularly by the height of one block, each movement is apparently determined by a fixed number of deposits. Rather, timeliness is a factor in virtuosity. As soon as four blocks of the same color touch, the blocks begin to glow; after a few seconds they shatter and disappear, but if another four blocks connect to them before that, the combined blocks will dim, and then luminesce; and again dim if more blocks can be added in time. Should a player make quick use of shapes whose colors match — and, elsewhere, of those whose colors don't — a great mass of blocks can be scored and removed from the board.

Larger combinations earn players power-ups, most of which ease the task of fitting shapes by clearing blocks out of the way. All are thematic. One issues a blow-dart that fires laterally, while a second brings a trio of spears thrusting upwards from beneath the gameplay surface, and a third conjures a beam of fire to blast player-targeted shapes apart. Yet another, when collected in groups of twenty, gives an extra life. When a defining point has been reached — often when you haven't a block's-width left — the level is announced as complete.

With an illustrated story of a noble quest through the jungle, an increasing palette of shapes and roster of power-ups, and effective use of sound effects and controller rumble (blocks disintegrate with a satisfying thwunk), the game provides enough to keep from boring those whom, like me, were never addicted to the genre. For Tetris devotees, TiQal offers 120 levels of play, a save-game feature, and cooperative mode over Xbox Live. If not wholly original, Slapdash Games' work is artfully florid and entertaining.




Slapdash Games


Microsoft Game Studios

NA Release

March 26, 2008


Play Mode

ESRB Rating

In Favor

  • Interesting twist on a classic
  • Long game, includes co-op


  • A variation, nonetheless

G&P Rating

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