Review: Tappingo (3DS eShop)

Pixel-by-numbers

Tappingo is a game for those who enjoy methodically teasing order out of an apparent mess.

Really. When you begin one of the 100+ puzzles, the upper screen that displays your goal in progress looks like an NES sneezed on it. Yet by working out the numbered blocks on the grid below, colours and form fill in until you’re rewarded with a completed image (you pixel da Vinci, you).

The overall mechanic of Tappingo has a vague feeling of Picross with a few dashes of Sudoku. Swiping a block will extend it in a direction of your choice along the grid. A number in each block tells you how many spaces a line from it should extend, so you have the blueprint and materials all right in front of you.

The catch, however, is that you can’t directly control the length of a line; it will keep shooting outward in a direction until it hits another block. This is where deduction and thinking ahead come into play. Figuring out which block can be the only choice for filling in an adjacent square is important, and knowing in which order to extend a section’s blocks is vital as you will essentially be creating walls to contain other lines and keep your parameters happy.

A nice tutorial shows the ropes of Tappingo, then you’re welcome to take the puzzles on in any order. This could be seen as both a benefit and a detriment. Not being corralled by earlier puzzles to reach others feels great, but the freedom also shows how there are no extra elements or twists to pick up as you make your way through the game. The puzzles increase in size and complexity, but once the methods of Tappingo “click” for someone, they can conceivably jump to the last puzzle and figure it out without any surprises.

That’s not to say the puzzles are always an instant-win breeze. Mistakes will happen, and can be undone by tapping on the block again. Often, however, an error isn’t realized until other moves have been made, so undoing it causes other lines to start extending again, leading to the need to unravel a portion of your work. This never tends to be too big a deal, but as lines start to take form next to each other, it can be difficult to pick out just what direction you extended them in the first place. An undo option or some indication on the original block to show what direction it has been extended could have been helpful in such situations.

Each puzzle is timed, but there are no time limits. The timer is only there as a means of competing against yourself or friends. Unfortunately, there are no leaderboards or profiles, so you would have to keep your records on paper if you’re really looking for competition — your own personal top score is on display once set, but that's all.

Tappingo has a bright, colourful presentation, and the puzzles themselves tend to run the same gamut in categories such as food, animals, and even Nintendo hardware. A few are not quite as exciting (yay, a floppy disk) and sometimes the completed object appears clearer as a thumbnail than on your top screen, but watching any object spin around in 3D once it’s completed is still satisfying. The music is cheerful and bouncy to match the game’s disposition, but some tracks have the potential to become a bit grating, like a kid jumping on a bed in your brain. Stylus controls are spot-on and caused no complaints whatsoever, but a buttons-based control option is also available if you really want to use it.

Conclusion

Tappingo can be likened to a puzzle book. Its scheme has charm, and although the challenge doesn’t grow a great deal once the methods are mastered, the simple act of working through each puzzle can still be fun in itself. While a few extra puzzle elements could have been employed, as well as a bit of customization with music and some multiplayer options, Tappingo’s price tag makes it easy to recommend to anyone who thinks they’d enjoy its brand of pixel puzzling.