Tri-Strip is a puzzle game about placing strips of triangles into a grid to make squares, which clears up space and nets you points; using the stylus, touchscreen and a single button, you can strategically drag, drop and rotate pieces into open spots. It's a style of play that requires a little bit more hesitation and thought when compared to a classic like Tetris, a game that requires you to react with haste. Still, when it comes to presentation and overall spirit, Tri-Strip – and its default, hazy green, monochromatic visuals – will make you feel like you're back in the 1990s, competing against your own personal high score on your original Game Boy. But whether or not that type of humble and limited experience contains enough substance to entertain Wii U owners for longer than a couple of hours is a serious concern.
For better or worse, Tri-Strip doesn't try to do anything that wasn't possible on the Game Boy – outside of touch screen controls, that is. There are four very similar game modes, along with some options to alter the circumstances ever so slightly, but the core gameplay doesn't really change. When it comes to setting high scores, there aren't any leaderboards, nor can you input your initials to tag your best effort; to make matters worse, high-score data resets each time you close the game or power down the Wii U. Even if the developer decided against incorporating a more modern scoring system to keep the experience pure and true to the era from which it was inspired, that doesn't mean the omission doesn't hurt the package. In fact, without some sort of goal or objective dangling in front of our face, we found there to be little incentive to keep returning beyond thoroughly testing all of the modes for review.
The four play modes are made up of Free Play, Challenge, Hardcore and Super Hardcore. The first, Free Play, allows you to choose the duration of the round, and during that time the agenda is simply to earn as many points as possible; there's really no winning or losing, only participating to surpass whatever personal goals you've created for yourself. Challenge mode functions in the same manner as Free Play, but instead of an open playfield there are five different board layouts to choose from, each restricting the amount of space available to place the triangles. When it comes to Hardcore and Super Hardcore modes, it's all about making a move within a 5 or 10 second time frame. If you fail to do so, a row of bricks will rise from the bottom of the screen, lessening your options and adding tension to the proceedings. Each of these options are serviceable, but we didn't believe any of them to be all that engrossing.
In the three paragraphs above we've painted a rather encompassing picture of what can be expected of Tri-Strip, and that should say a lot. Does the meagre amount of content and variation make this a bad game? Not necessarily. What it comes down to is that, for a brief while, the core gameplay was interesting and enjoyable. The problem is that it feels as though another layer of involvement or depth, like modifiers or modes that twist the concept in unique ways, would've turned it into something more compelling and less bland. That — along with the primitive design decisions that undeniably diminish the lasting appeal — is why we find it tough to recommend Tri-Strip. It's a nice homage to the Game Boy era but, unfortunately, it's a bit too stuck in the past to stand out much in this day and age.
Depending too heavily on its Game Boy-influenced presentation, Tri-Strip doesn't take the time to acknowledge that a couple of modern touches could've injected much-needed value into its limited package. What that translates to is that, without leaderboards or the ability to save high scores, there's little incentive to remain invested after a few introductory sessions. We will admit to initially finding the core triangle-matching gameplay interesting, but it's just not spiced up or built upon well enough to feel fully realized. It wouldn't be unfair to say that Tri-Strip hasn't aged well, even if the truth is that it's a 2015 game.