Perhaps the best word to describe Tetrobot and Co is “slick”; this charming little puzzler from French indie developer Swing Swing Submarine is just buttery smooth. With its deliciously sharp visuals and tight gameplay, it’s a class act from start to finish. It may not be a genre-defining revelation but it’s a fantastic little time-killer from the 5-man studio, and a great achievement for only their second release.
There isn’t much to fault besides the plot – it’s not particularly bad, but it does seem a little pointless. Tetrobot & Co. is sort of a sequel to the developer’s first outing, Blocks That Matter, and carries some plot elements forward with it. Maya is an engineer, chemist and repairer of “Tetrobots”, drilling robots that are popular the world over. In order to maintain these, she invents its smaller brother, the Psychobot, tiny helpers that find and fix problems at a microscopic level. Working out of Alexey and Markus’ workshop, featured in Blocks That Matter, she sets about repairing Tetrobots from all over the world using the Psychobots to move blocks of matter around inside their older and larger brothers.
A little story to put things in context is ok with me, but there’s more to the narrative and it’s not necessarily to the benefit of the experience. There’s an odd Facebook influence going on, a parody of sorts where each type of block has its own profile page complete with status updates and other Facebook dribble. This “Faceblox” system has nothing to do with the story and is absolutely unnecessary. It’s just a bit of unneeded bloat, which is a shame when you see how sleek the rest of the game is. There’s a bit more to the plot, which is revealed as you progress, but it’s all a bit trivial, as is often the case when it comes to puzzlers.
These plot grievances thankfully don’t impede the gameplay, which is an absolute treat. It’s both simplistic and deliciously complex at the same time. The aim is to get your Psychobot from the start to the finish, solving puzzles as you go. Your tiny tinkerer is controlled using the mouse, with left click to move and right click to capture or release blocks. While the manipulating of blocks is well-implemented, navigating your Psychobot can be problematic at times. The path-finding ability of the AI when you command your bot to move across the level can be a bit off at times; you may find it triggering switches by accident as it passes them or positioning itself awkwardly when you want to capture a block. As well as that, there doesn’t seem to be a way to cancel a movement after you’ve ordered it – but both of these complaints are less of an issue after you become more accustomed to the game.
Blocks are the key to everything in Tetrobot & Co. and come in a variety of types, each with their own attributes and characteristics. There are metal blocks that stop lasers, wooden blocks that can be burned, TNT blocks, sticky blocks, reflective glass blocks and lots, lots more. They can also be altered and changed into other types; for example, passing a sand block over a laser will change it to a glass block.
The restraints imposed by the developer are ingenious enough to make for some really great puzzles. The two main kickers are that any block of the same type will stick to each other, and you can only release or capture blocks horizontally. These are simple conditions, but simultaneously frustrating and useful in practice. The environments are as varied as the blocks across the 50+ levels, ranging from the aquatic-themed to the sticky gunk-themed. These different levels add their own twist to the puzzles too, with environments effecting the movement and behavior of blocks.
With the large amount of blocks and their unique aspects, the external level influences and truly excellent puzzle design, it’s a pleasure to play. There is a perfect balance of complexity in the puzzles to ensure that, although they require a decent amount of brain power at times, they never feel impossibly hard. It’s only when you go about collecting the 3 golden blocks hidden in each level that things start to get very taxing.
The visually stylings are somewhat minimal but Tetrobot & Co. doesn’t look barren by any means. The models and environments are beautifully simple and elegant, while some of the flashier instances of visual effects are gracefully subdued. The audio is just as crisp, while the soundtrack should be commended for not getting on your nerves as you try to solve a difficult puzzle.
VERDICT: Swing Swing Submarine should be very proud of what they have achieved here, an excellent and fairly unique puzzler that is addictive, fun and rewarding. While the plot and bloat may be a drawback, they are the only complaints with Tetrobot & Co. If you’re looking for a great brain workout that you can dive in and out of, then these are the droids you’re looking for.
GOOD. A game that scores 7/10 is worthy of note, but unworthy of fanfare. It does many things well, but only a few of them incredibly well and, despite a handful of good qualities, fresh ideas and solid mechanics, it fails to overwhelm.