Indie puzzle games come in two flavours: gameplay that will make you pull your hair out combined with puzzles that are unfair, and ones that are a dream and delight to play, with puzzles that aren’t too taxing, but still leaves you with a head scratching experience without making you want to commit electronic murder. Let’s find out which category Tetrobot and Co. falls into.
Tetrobot and Co. is actually the sequel to another indie puzzle game, Blocks that Matter. In Tetrobot and Co., you control Psychobot, a miniature robot that fixes Tetrobots by going inside them and playing with their innards like a joyful mini surgeon. Your only objective is to get the Psychobot to the end (which I assume fixes the Tetrobot), but there are bits of memory bank that open up access to later levels of the game. These memory banks also unlock bits of story, which make a lot more sense if you’ve played the first game (coincidentally not available on Wii U). Initially, the memory banks are optional, but at some point, if you want proceed, you’ will need to go back and collect them.
In many of the stages, there are blocks that your Psychobot can absorb and eject to the left and right. How the blocks interact with each other and with the environment form the basis of many of the game’s puzzles. For example, it’s useful to know that blocks of the same material stick to each other, and will prefer to adhere than to move. This is useful to know when you need to build a particular shape out of different kinds of blocks, and your strategy tends to be to use a few blocks initially to get the one you need in place, and then use its stickiness to put the rest of the structure in place. It’s difficult to explain in words, but an important factor is that the little psychobot cannot throw blocks up or down.
There’s very little not to like about Tetrobot and Co.; it’s a wonderful puzzler with delightful music, charming graphics, and puzzles that can be tough but not truly unforgiving once you’ve got the mechanics figured out. For control, you can use either the Wii U Pro Controller or the Gamepad (buttons or touch screen), or even the Wii Remote to point at where you want Psychobot to go. The Psychobot uses a pathfinding algorithm to get to where you point, so in the case of the touchscreen or the Wii Remote, it’s a simple point and go scenario. The ease of control is a blessing that makes the game a joy to play. What would have been nice is some backstory, though. The game assumes that players have encountered Blocks that Matter before, which cannot be taken for granted on the Wii U. Still, it’s a minor issue in an otherwise, almost perfectly spotless puzzle game. There are at least 10 hours of gameplay here, so it’s well worth your money if you enjoy musing over solutions.
It’s less rare to encounter almost perfect games in the indie scene than in big budget games, but crafting a near-perfect puzzle game takes some measure of craft and dedication. Tetrobot and Co. is one of these beautiful games: full of charm, in-jokes, and subtle, gentle humour which makes it a joyful experience to play. It’s an eShop-only game, but it definitely something to add to your Wii U game collection, even if puzzle games aren’t normally your thing.
Final Score: 9 prawnbots out of 10
Developer: Swing Swing Submarine
Publisher: Neko Games
Platform: Wii U (eShop)
Age Rating: 3+