The Wii U eShop is gradually building its library, but for the large part has been populated by relatively substantial games that cost a decent amount of change; while that's absolutely fine, this is a platform also suitable for inexpensive experiences either quick-fire or simple in nature. RUSH, like its Two Tribes Classics predecessors Toki Tori and EDGE, arrives with a budget introductory price and a far-from-excessive standard rate, offering some affordable fun.
At an initial glance RUSH may remind some of EDGE, with its enthusiasm for block capitals and, more pertinently, its use of cubes as the main elements of the game. Unlike EDGE, however, this title is a puzzle game through and through, foregoing pseudo-platforming for some old-fashioned grey-matter work. Add to that the overall design concept and this is a title that should, in theory, be simple to play for gamers of all levels.
Your task is that of puzzle master and planner, as you're presented with a 3D layout, starting points for the multiple cubes and a target zone that they have to reach. It's all clearly presented with bright, crisp colours, and you're given limited resources — which must always be used in full — to manoeuvre these cubes so that they don't hit each other, fall into the abyss or simply aimlessly roll around the stage missing their goal. The simplest tools are directional arrows that redirect cubes, while conveyor belts move them one space in a set direction, stop indicators slow them down, and another tool splits cubes into alternative directions. These are all introduced gradually, with the game slowly teaching you how to play before taking off the training wheels.
In a diversion from the previous Two Tribes Classics titles, RUSH pushes you towards one style of play, in this case utilising the GamePad's touch screen. It's possible to use the stylus for all controls, as you tap the grid-like stages to place and move items, while adjusting the camera with swipes and movements around the outside of the level to adjust the view. The analogue sticks can also work the camera while the back shoulder buttons serve as a useful camera zoom, which is integral in more complex 3D stage designs.
In that respect the TV is relegated to the role of entertaining others in the room, or providing a slightly brighter and sharper view of the cubes heading to their destinations. The touch controls work well and occasions of placing an item in the wrong place are rare and easily fixed, but even with the zoom later levels proved slightly taxing when trying to take in the gravity of the challenge. While it's possible to explore the multi-level shapes on the TV before switching to the GamePad, the absence of physical buttons to place items seems like a missed opportunity — simply translating mouse control-precision through touch to the GamePad is sound in theory, but the 6.1 inch screen can be found lacking in real estate.
That is a minor complaint, however, against what is another polished effort from the developer. It's also an experience that, with its multiple difficulty settings and Bonus stages, will keep most busy for a long time. There are plenty of stages, yes, but it's the fierce difficulty that will flesh out this experience. The Easy stages are a gentle introduction, but even the Normal levels will have multiple groups of cubes, hazards and items to consider and manage, enough to truly bend some minds. The fact that you decide all of your moves before setting the cubes in action — like a futuristic game of dominoes — means that keen puzzlers may dwell on tougher stages for a long time before even experimenting.
That's not a complaint, but does drive this title towards a demographic that truly seeks a test of puzzle-solving ability and is also blessed with a patient mind. The action element of EDGE and to a lesser degree Toki Tori is replaced by this pure puzzle solving, making this a different proposition entirely. With many stages being multi-layered 3D structures, too, this is a serious test of spacial awareness, so if you struggle in those areas in games like Brain Training this will either be a welcome opportunity to work that part of your brain or an issue, depending on your perspective.
To its credit, Two Tribes does offer some help. Two hint buttons are available on the touch screen, one that shows whether your placed items are correct — invaluable for later levels with item numbers into double figures — and another than shows where your various tools should be placed, without telling you which goes where. As there's no scoring, as such, it's a question of pride whether you want to battle through without hints or endure the level completion screen revealing the number of hints used, like a subtle badge of shame.
Overall, then, this is a simple concept increasingly tweaked with more devious puzzles, shapes and challenges. Much about RUSH is minimalist, too, with levels in each difficulty playable in almost any order — some are unlocked once you clear a set amount — and with visuals and sound that are clean and unobtrusive. While EDGE delighted us with its techno-infused soundtrack and dazzling creativity, this is a flat-out puzzle game that challenges, rather than surprises. It's pleasing both visually and aurally, albeit less memorable than its fellow cube-based experience.
RUSH is a more than welcome addition to the Wii U eShop, as it delivers straight-out puzzle challenges with few needless embellishments, all at a budget price. It's intuitive on the GamePad touch screen — though the lack of a physical button control scheme is a pity — and very quickly ramps up the challenge. Later levels will take a lot of brain work and time to beat, with some hint tools there to help; the complexity of the stage shapes pose the greatest challenge. It delivers with a little panache and is perfectly suited to the Brain Training crowd, in particular, even if these cubes aren't as multi-sided as in another Two Tribes Classic.