Tiki Blocks is a new Facebook game from Kobojo. It’s a Diamond Dash-style puzzle game featuring a competitive multiplayer mode and a single-player objective-based “quest” mode.
Tiki Blocks’ core gameplay is little different from the numerous other Diamond Dash-style puzzlers out there. Players are presented with a grid of colored gems and must “explode” groups of three or more like-colored gems that are next to each other by clicking on them, at which point the empty space is filled with new gems that drop into the gap. Matching gems in rapid succession unlocks a bonus mode, whereby each new match also explodes surrounding gems as well as the ones in the group. Special items occasionally drop into the grid, including bombs that destroy all gems in the same row and column as themselves when incorporated into a match, and stars which provide score bonuses when included in a match.
There are two main modes of play — a weekly tournament and a quest mode, though the quest mode does not unlock until the player has gained enough experience to reach level 4. The weekly tournament mode is the usual minute-long “blitz” high score challenge with an interesting twist — a split-screen presentation pits players against a random other Facebook player, giving the battle a “head to head” feel. It’s not entirely clear whether the other player presented on screen is playing “live” then and there, but the lack of time the game takes to find a new player who is also ready to play suggests that this is, in fact, just a well-disguised asynchronous competition. It is a nice touch, however, that adds an interesting twist on the usual leaderboard-based competition.
The quest mode, meanwhile, is a linear series of solo levels in which the player is given various tasks such as matching a certain number of groups in a minute, or making a single group with a certain number of gems in it. The difficulty level of these vary wildly and with no real consistency — rather than a nicely-graded difficulty curve, players will occasionally run into a difficulty wall and find that subsequent levels are incredibly easy.
The game makes use of an energy system to throttle play, and this does not replenish when the player levels up. The player is, however, able to restore ten points of energy — enough for two games — by watching a video from an advertising partner. There does not appear to be a limit on how many times this can be done. The game is a little too pushy with the energy system, regularly nagging players that they are “nearly out of energy” when in fact the bar is merely at the halfway mark. This is often coupled with nag screens to invite friends to play that get frustratingly obtrusive after a while, but are easily dismissed.
Tiki Blocks isn’t a bad game and the “head to head” nature of the multiplayer battles makes it worth a play or two despite its few annoyances. However, perhaps the most serious issue worth considering with this game is not a fault specific to Tiki Blocks, but rather with the puzzle genre of social gaming as a whole — we’ve seen this all before.
Puzzle games on Facebook tend to fall into three categories for the most part — Diamond Dash-style puzzlers like this one; Bejeweled-style “match-3″ puzzlers; and bubble shooters. There are exceptions, of course, but the vast majority of new puzzle games being released on Facebook fall into one of these three categories, and at some point users are going to get tired of playing the same games with slightly different aesthetics or game structures. Independent software developers working on standalone games for PC and console regularly come up with creative new ideas for puzzle games that would be an ideal fit for social play, but instead Facebook game developers often tend to fall back on the same tired old game styles over and over again. These games are often good quality, prove successful and monetize well due to their established, recognizable mechanics, but sometimes it would be nice to see something a little more original.
Tiki Blocks is not yet listed on our traffic tracking service AppData at the time of writing, but Facebook reports it has 330,000 monthly active users so far. Check back shortly to follow its progress by MAU, WAU, DAU and user retention figures.
Worth a look for its interesting head to head mechanic, but isn’t it time we came up with some new ideas for puzzle games?