TiQal Review

TiQal has its moments, but there are just too many other, better puzzle games on Xbox Live Arcade.

Here's that Mayan-themed Xbox Live Arcade puzzle game you've been waiting for. Oh, what's that you say? You already have Luxor 2, Jewel Quest, and Zuma? Oh. Well, technically, isn't Jewel Quest set in Egypt? Totally different, dude.

All kidding aside, TiQal is a bit different from the other pyramid-and-human-sacrifice-friendly puzzle games available on the 360. But the gameplay can be summed up as Lumines for lazy people, and presentation is so rote that you'll have to pay close attention to prevent yourself from thinking that you're playing one of the other Live Arcade puzzle games based on an ancient culture.

TiQal gives you a widescreen block pit to work with, and the removal rules work like Lumines, so when you create a two-by-two block of the same color, it lights up. You can expand these shapes by dropping more and more of the same colored block, making for large block explosions. Rather than work rhythmically, like Lumines, active blocks in TiQal stay in the pit for a bit, lit up for easy identification. If you can keep dumping blocks onto that combo and extend it, it'll stay in the pit. Leave it alone for too long, and it'll burst, giving you your points and, if it's a big enough break, a power-up or two.

The blocks you're given at the top of the screen vary in shape, and you'll unlock more complicated shapes as you proceed through the game. The blocks don't drop on their own. Instead, the pressure comes from the rising of the pit itself. But it doesn't seem to get so fast that it becomes too challenging, and by the time you've advanced far enough in the game to see it get difficult, you'll have accumulated so many extra lives that it won't be much of a hassle to deal with. A meter at the bottom of the screen fills as you break blocks, and when it's full, you move on to the next level.

Between levels, you're shown a quick page of text detailing how you're trying to get jaguar teeth or corn or something to offer to the gods of the pyramid you're trying to enter. I'm really not sure who wrote the memo that puzzle games need some kind of half-hearted story, but it feels like a real waste of effort, considering nothing in the gameplay actually changes or plays off of those story bits.

If you like, you can play the game with a friend, cooperatively, online or off. This just lets you drop twice as many blocks into the pit and doesn't seem to set up any interesting strategic differences.

It's thoroughly unexciting and visually uninspired, but that's more the fault of TiQal's place in history. If it had been one of the first puzzle games on the service, it might stand out a bit more. But now, despite its passable gameplay, it's hard to not just say "wow, they made another one of these?" and move on.