For many, maths (or math, for you folks over the pond) isn’t always the most therapeutic of exercises. It can be downright perplexing at times, and if you don’t have a natural aptitude for numbers (like this writer), then frustration can set in quickly. It’s good, then, that TENS! – from developer Kwalee – doesn’t ask too much from the player in terms of mathematical brainpower; all you need is a basic understanding of addition and subtraction, and that’s really it.
In a nutshell, TENS! is a puzzle game in which you’re presented with a blank 5x5 grid. Within this grid, you’ll need to place numbers from 1 to 6 in any space you see fit, with the eventual goal to make as many rows or columns add up to ten in one go. The numbers themselves are available either on their own, or they can be linked together, kind of like a Tetris piece. Reaching the number 10 will clear the row and/or column, awarding you with points in the process; clear multiple in one swoop, and you’ll gain bonus points.
It sounds incredibly simple in theory, and to be fair, the game is remarkably easy to pick up and start playing. It’s only when you get a bit deeper that it starts to become fiendishly tricky. As you progress through the game, you’ll start seeing variations on the formula, designed to directly affect how you play. For example, question mark blocks will start appearing within the grid; place a number on one of these, and it will automatically change that number to a completely different one. Utilising this can often be a bit of a gamble; it can help you out on some occasions, but can also just as easily push you over your target number, making the puzzle instantly more difficult to navigate.
In addition to the regular solo sessions, there are also multiple occasions in which you’ll go face-to-face against an AI opponent. The gameplay here is significantly more frenetic, as clearing rows and columns will add ‘junk’ blocks to your opponent’s grid, and vice versa, preventing numbers from being added; very similar to Tetris or Puyo Puyo, in a way. These sessions can be frantic and stressful, but the difficulty rarely gets demanding enough to dampen your enjoyment.
The game is split into three distinct modes: Adventure is the main single-player campaign and tasks you with completing puzzles in a linear fashion; Endless puts you straight into the action and ends only when you run out of moves; finally, Multiplayer Mode lets you play against a friend or family member over local play. Sadly, there’s no online play available here, which seems like a bit of a missed trick.
TENS! is very much like Sudoku; it’s the kind of puzzle game that is so immediately accessible to everyone, it’s actually quite difficult to pick out any significant flaws. Ultimately, your enjoyment of the title will come down to how much you want to play a game that’s essentially about adding and subtracting numbers. It’s not for everyone, but if you’re up for it, then TENS! will sink its hooks in you and won’t let go for a long time.