There has been much debate over Nintendo opening up the eShop to a wider array of developers and allowing what some would consider to be lesser experiences to be featured. The main argument being that consoles justify better, higher quality games than the relatively shallow offerings that can be found on smartphone markets, and that these developers releasing games on the eShop drags down the quality of the platform. Enter Tilelicious: Delicious Tiles, a puzzle game inspired by the likes of Threes and 2048, which does nothing to dissipate these concerns but is a passable game in its own right.
For those of you that don't keep up on smartphone game trends, the popular style of gameplay present here is centered around the concept of consolidation. Players are given a 5x5 grid and a tile is added to the board each time the player makes a move. By pressing a direction on the D-Pad, all of the tiles shift as far as they can go in a direction, simultaneously. When the shift pushes a tile into an adjacent tile of the same denomination, they combine to make one tile that is a single denomination higher. If the board is filled with tiles and no moves are available, it's game over.
Here, we encounter the first problem with Tilelicious: game over is nearly inevitable and is only missed by luck in the later stages. Typically, these consolidation tile games are score-based arcade experiences, but Tilelicious's twist is that it's progress based. Instead of higher value tiles giving the players a bigger score, they contribute to the completion percentage of the stage; achieving the highest possible denomination allows the player to move on to the next stage. The problem with this setup is that attaining the highest denomination tile is mostly a result of luck. When a stage has been wearing on long enough that the player has some tiles on board that are only one or two shy of the last tile, typically there's very little space left to make moves and it's entirely up to the randomly generated next tile whether or not the player will be able to continue. Unfortunately, this random system only becomes more unfair with each passing stage in order to make it more "difficult". After a game over, the stage resets and players are barred from progressing further until the highest denomination tile is finally achieved. The setup just doesn't work when it's progress based and feels like an artificial means of prolonging the length of the game.
Pacing issues aside, the presentation on offer here is top notch. Menus transition smoothly, loading screens are kept to a minimum, and the food-centric art style is quite pleasant. After attaining a higher denomination tile, a rather corny narrator will give the player a pat on the back by enthusiastically saying something like "Good Job!" as it flashes across the screen. Each stage is centered around a particular food or food group and as tile values ascend they build on the central concept of the stage. For example, a pizza themed stage's lowest denomination is a simple pizza crust, the next one adds sauce, the next one adds cheese, etc. While this is charming and gives the player a sense of progression, it contributes to another flaw with the design.
Early on, tiles have a number or a letter in the corner that denote its value. For some reason, later stages have the rather confusing omission of these numbers or letters, essentially leaving the player to guess which denomination is higher than the next. When the board is nearly full and contains several different tiles, it can be difficult to recall the individual values of tiles. While there are visual indications that help alleviate this, several tiles look very similar to each other and it can be confusing, initially. Once again, this feels like a way of artificially prolonging the length, but it gets easier to remember the order after several attempts have been made.
Replayability isn't really encouraged as score is not kept and there's only one game mode. Despite these frustrating flaws, the core experience of matching tiles can be addictive and easily puts the player in that "one more try" mindset. It's a good thing, too, because each stage will last a long time as the player hopes that this next run will give out the right tiles when they're needed.
Tilelicious is a puzzle game with solid, market-tested core gameplay, but it's marred by archaic design choices that hold it back from being a stronger offering. It's good for entertaining, pick up and play gaming, but spending too much time with it makes it difficult to look past its flaws. It's also pricey for its genre, though it is the first game of its kind on the Wii U eShop. For now, this is as good as it gets and you could do a whole lot worse.