While many have berated the PS Vita and its shift towards being a haven for indie developers and the move towards games that can be played and enjoyed both equally in longer sessions or bite-sized chunks as opposed to the larger AAA titles that were promised at the console’s launch it has proved to be a real lifeline for the Vita. Not only that, but over the years this philosophy has brought us some real gems and true eternal classics that will be remembered long after the Vita has been put out to pasture.
This transition has seen an incredible diversity of games in recent years covering almost every genre possible as well as Vita ports from other formats that wouldn’t have seen the light of day otherwise including the PC and unlikely sources including Android, iOS and even games originating as web-based titles. Regadless, some great games have been released, often looking to the past for their inspiration often bringing us retro-themed games with pixel art styling or games with elements from games of old…
Which brings me on to TETRA’s Escape. Essentially, it’s a side-on platform puzzle game all about moving blocks under your control from one side of the level to the other to reach a portal so they can escape to the next level and so on. Your initial thoughts are that it’s a relatively simplistic side-scrolling platform puzzle game and the first couple of levels certainly ease you into thinking this. Simple move your cuboid friends (Tetras) across the landscape to get one of them to the escape portal at the other end, hopefully collecting all of the bonus stars along the way and it couldn’t be simpler, right?
Under normal circumstances I’d say not. Each of these Tetras can walk and climb over the landscape on each level although thanks to their diminutive stature have limited climbing abilities so when you get a few levels in and discover areas that are too high to reach, or too wide to traverse normally and that’s where the name reveals the key to real originality in the gameplay for TETRA’s Escape. You’re going to need help and realise your little Tetra friend isn’t alone anymore and his friends are the answer to all of your problems…
Once you have several working together you’ll discover that many of the new Tetras you encounter have the ability to change into different shapes – Tetrominos – and by swapping between Tetras you can use their abilities to change them and move them into positions to fill gaps in the landscape. Careful rotating and positioning of these will allow you to traverse them, build staircases, bridges or anything else you need to reach your goal. If you haven’t guessed already, Ratalaika have managed to create a bizarre hybrid of a platform game and one of the greatest games of all time, Tetris.
TETRA’s Escape is devilishly addictive puzzle game and while the early stages won’t tax you too much, they do serve as a gentle introduction to the gameplay mechanics and all you need to know about movement, character swapping and everything else so you’ll be up and running in no time. The difficultly curve is balanced reasonably well although you might start to tear your hair out once you get part way through the second world, especially if you want to get all of the stars and the cups for each level before you move on to the next.
There’s plenty here and you’ll certainly get your money’s worth from it. 64 levels spread over 8 visually distinctive worlds keep the game looking varied and with new Tetris shapes added to the game the further you progress it feels as if the game is growing with you as you play so there’s an element of curiosity as you want to know what’s coming next. It’s not pushing the Vita in any way but it does look attractive and suits the game perfectly, all supported by a great soundtrack that fits the game well.
There’s plenty of replay value for many of the levels with the inclusion of the stars and cups available for collection. While earlier levels make it quite easy to pick up everything as you play without any difficulty, later levels may need a little thinking before you can collect all of the bonus items. You can complete stages without picking up anything but it does give an extra challenge for those of you who want to go back later to try to perfect it.
Technically this is nothing particularly special. Strip away the 2.5D in-game presentation and it’s nothing that couldn’t run – being honest – on any system from the 8-bit era onwards with a little allowances made for the controls but that doesn’t really matter because what we have here is a great game that you can pick up and play at any time, is perfect for quick play on the move (it’s quickly becoming my new “go to” game for local bus journeys) and is a great way to unwind when you don’t need a game that requires quick reactions and is time critical. It’s an absolute steal on the PlayStation Store as well at only £3.99 (including Cross Buy with the PS4) so for less than the price of a fast food meal there’s no reason why you should give this one a try. You won’t regret it.
At a Glance:
- Title: TETRA’s Escape
- Publisher: Ratalaika Games SL
- Developer: Diabolical Mind
- Format: PSN Download
- Memory Card Space Required: 130Mb
- Cross Buy: Yes (PS4)
- PlayStation TV Compatible: TBC