Girls Like Robots. They also like pie. They don't like nerds, but nerds like girls. And nerds also like corners. They don't like other nerds. But cows like being near people who are beside things they don't like. And sometimes, everyone is just being attacked by the bug king and no one really likes it. Girls Like Robots' tile-swapping puzzles require you know all of these little relationships, setting up a seating arrangement to make sure everyone is happily sitting next to someone they like. Unless that stage happens to be about something else.
Knowing who likes what is key to getting through every stage of Girls Like Robots. Each stage provides players with various grids and groups of tiles to place on it. The tiles, all large faces of characters and items that are easy to identify at a glance, each have their own relationship with the other tile types. As said before, girls like robots, nerds like girls, and everyone loves pie. You have to figure out where to best place these tiles in the grid so that everyone is smiling and filling up your happiness bar. If you can fill that up to a certain point, you get to move on to the next stage.
There are things that the tiles don't like, though, that will eat up your happiness points. Girls don't care for nerds, so placing too many nerd tiles around them will upset them, losing you points. Robots panic when surrounded by four girls, so that will cost you as well. They also have an unnatural fear of pie that also upsets them. You have to place your tiles to maximize happiness while minimizing irritation.
The game further complicates things by throwing different tiles, grids, and requirements into the mix. Cow tiles only give milk when people are annoyed all around them, so to gain happiness points you need to get them good and aggravated at first. In other stages the grid is mostly closed off, forcing you to be careful about where you place your tiles. In others, the order of tiles is chosen for you and you have to play that order as best you can.
The game is also willing to completely switch up how it plays. In one stage, you have to make a whole line of people smile so that they disappear, Tetris-style, before the screen fills with faces. In another, you have to place bug tiles so that they reflect exploding insects into the Bug King. In another you have to scare bugs close to a girl who likes them.
Girls Like Robots never settles on one game type, always changing up its victory requirements and play style to keep things interesting. Instead of constantly raising the difficulty of one puzzle type and forcing you to match the same couple of tiles to keep them happy, it keeps changing what it wants. In one stage, you make people happy. In another, you're making them miserable. In the next, you could be chasing bugs. The game is always reinventing itself, making each level fresh and new.
It's relentlessly adorable, as well. The smiling tiles add a lot of delight to making the right tile placement choices, and seeing the storyline played out with these grinning blocks is fun, too. The music, mainly composed of upbeat banjo tunes, keeps things cheery and light as you play. It's catchy stuff, and perfectly fits in with a game that's mostly focused on making people happy.
The actual act of placing tiles is the only thing about the game that breeds unhappiness. You can drag and drop the tile you want by using the stylus on the Wii U GamePad, which works quite well. You can also tap at the tiles to find out their relationship needs if you forget who likes what. Both of these things are fine, but problems show up when you want to get rid of a wrong move. Instead of letting you move a tile off the grid if you change your mind on its placement, you have to tap the undo button and get rid of your last move, instead.
You will frequently find that you've made a mistake in your tile placement as you play. The thing is, that might mean you need to undo an old move and not your most recent one. Instead of letting you just touch an already-placed tile and take it off the grid, you have to hit the undo button until it removes every move you've made until you get to the one you actually want to get rid of. If you're almost done and you find you made a bad choice with your first tile placement, you'll need to undo every single move you've made before that one to get rid of it. While you could argue that it adds to the challenge, it was a constant frustration for us.
It's not a major issue, though, as the game has different levels of happiness required to win. Maxing out the happiness bar in a given level will give you more happiness points for a pool that unlocks extra levels, but if you just want to beat the stage and move on you don't have to totally fill the bar. You can afford to make a bunch of mistakes if all you care about is unlocking the next level, so the undo issue might not be too bothersome if you're just playing casually.
If you have a friend over you can also go head-to-head, taking turns dropping tiles in the game's versus mode. The game has a handful of grids to play on, and you both vie for the most happiness points, either by making your tiles happy or placing tiles to frustrate the other player's. The competitive joy game is surprisingly compelling, even if it doesn't quite have the same variety as the main game.
Girls Like Robots constantly delights with its endless variety, upbeat music and cute characters. By changing up its play styles, grids and victory conditions, you never know what the next level will bring. Instead of just providing players with a single, fun puzzle mechanic and messing with it a bit, the game reinvents itself with every stage. You don't just wonder how you will solve the next puzzle, but what the next puzzle will even be. Above all, though, it's just fun playing a game about making people happy. Or making them so angry that cows give milk.