Rubber Tacos review

Rubber Tacos is a new social game from Sava Transmedia. The game is available on both Facebook and Zynga.com, and is part of Zynga’s latest wave of publisher partnerships.

Rubber Tacos is a physics-based puzzle game in which the player’s aim is to fling various members of a heavily-stylized family of Mexican superheroes through the air and collect as many chili peppers as possible. The nonsensical premise is set up by a wordless introduction sequence in what looks like a piñata runs away with all the peppers, but beyond that the game gives little explanation or context as to what is going on. To be fair to the game, since the focus is on gameplay rather than storytelling, the context doesn’t really matter, but there will certainly be a feeling of bewilderment for most players for the first few minutes of play at least.

Basic gameplay involves using the mouse to click and drag a springboard to launch one of the family members through the air, ideally at a trajectory that will let them pass through all five peppers in a level and then land on the “finish” springboard. As the game progresses, additional mechanics are incorporated into the mix, beginning with bouncy trampolines that can be rotated. Players also gain access to various powerups corresponding to the different family members — the Dad character gains the ability to see a guide line before launching, for example, while the “Magnetic Mom” can use her ability to safely land on the finish line even if her trajectory would normally cause her to miss by a small degree. Powerups are available in limited quantities but may be refreshed either in occasional bonus rounds or by expending the game’s hard currency Dineros.

Once the player has completed the game’s first “act,” additional features start to unlock, beginning with a level editor. Using this Build mode, players can design their own levels and share them with their friends. Players can visit each other, try out each other’s custom levels and rate them — doing so awards them with a special currency known as “hearts.” The player may carry up to 50 hearts at once, and 10 may be traded in at any one time to gain an additional point of energy, which equates to five attempts at a single level. It’s a good system that encourages socialization and engagement with the custom content creation tools, but it does assume that players will progress far enough to unlock the Build mode and that they will be able to attract enough friends to play with.

Rubber Tacos is a very well-presented game — it has a distinctive, entertaining aesthetic and catchy background music. Where it falls down a little is in its explanations of various features to players. The interface is almost entirely icon-based and seems to have an aversion to putting any text on screen whatsoever. While this means that the game is theoretically accessible to a worldwide audience without the need for time-consuming translation efforts, some of the icons and diagrams that are used throughout are not especially clear. This is an issue that is regularly encountered in mobile games, but in that case a lack of text is usually to prevent the small screen of the device from looking too cluttered. There is no real need to do this on a Facebook canvas game — there is plenty of screen space available for brief, text-based explanations that will make the game considerably more friendly to newcomers. Alongside this, the game would perhaps benefit from simple popups explaining how to unlock content and modes, as the game does not explicitly tell players that the Build mode is locked until they have made a certain amount of progress through the preset puzzles, for example.