TENS! Review – Tetris with Dice

Developer/Publisher: Kwalee Ltd. // Price: $14.99 (eShop), $9.99 (Steam)
Review copy received from publisher

Ask someone to name a puzzle based video game and the probability that Tetris is named is considerably high.  Tetris has had a tremendous impact on the puzzle genre spawning numerous clones and new games highly influenced by its gameplay.  Having had such a large impact on so many puzzle games, it is hard to imagine a game influenced by Tetris that brings something new to the genre.  However, TENS! does just that providing a slight twist on an old formula by mixing mathematics and tile-placement with pieces composed of dice.  Gameplay takes place on a 5×5 grid with the goal of clearing lines (either rows or columns), but a line is only cleared when the total sum of the dice along that axis is equal to ten.

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New and Improved!

TENS! is a port of the mobile app, but Kwalee has added content for the console version.  Using a simple, whimsical art style, the bright and cheerful graphics are a considerable upgrade compared to that of the mobile app.  TENS! also includes a new multiplayer battle mode where two players compete against each other with the goal of blocking the opponent from playing any pieces.  Every line that is cleared adds blocks to the challenger’s board making it harder to place pieces, but the blocks can be cleared normally if the dice on the line still adds up to ten.  The experience is frantic and player speed definitely has an impact on success.  Being slow to play pieces can equate to a loss as blocks can build up quickly.  

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Included with battle mode are adventure and endless modes.  In adventure mode, players are challenged to complete 70 puzzles through 10 worlds.  Each world combines regular puzzles and battles against a mid-level and final boss.  In adventure mode, the grids include gimmick squares that add a little variety and challenge by doing things like changing die values, preventing die placement, and moving a die across the grid.  Up to 3 stars can be earned for each puzzle by earning specific scores.  These stars are then used to raise the player’s level, which will unlock new skins for the dice.  Defeating the bosses adds new character icons to represent the player on the overworld. 

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Just a Couple of Tweaks

The concept of TENS! is extremely interesting to me as a board gamer and a puzzle fan.  However, the gameplay became stale due to the lack of variety in the dice configurations, especially in endless mode.  There are only three arrangements of dice: singles, pairs, and trios shaped in an L.  In adventure mode, the gimmick squares seemed like a mild annoyance more often than not.  I rarely felt forced to change my strategy because I could avoid those squares.  Quite often I would just place dice in a different part of the grid, and it was easy enough to clear a line with 2 or 3 dice.  It was only when the grid got smaller due to multiple squares being blocked off that there seemed to be any challenge.  Many times I had to create my own challenges like trying to clear multiple lines at a time or creating a chain of line clears.  Additional arrangements of the dice like three in a row and a 2×2 square would have helped to freshen up the gameplay, especially in adventure mode as larger pieces would force the gimmick squares to be used. 

The Star of the Show

The best part of TENS! is battle mode.  Where most tile placement games are centered around geometry, TENS! forces keen mathematic skills in addition to quick dice placement and planning.  Battle mode cranks up the adrenaline as the opponents push blocks onto your grid requiring quick analysis of the situation when the current plan is suddenly spoiled.  The only option for battle mode is local multiplayer, but TENS! could have greatly benefitted with the option to play online.  

Final Verdict

TENS! is a bit of a mixed bag.  Although it is a port of a mobile app, there is significant content (enhanced graphics and multiplayer mode) to justify the higher price.  The concept is novel, but with the limited arrangements of pieces, it doesn’t take long for the experience to become jaded.  Despite that, a few small tweaks could improve the repetitive nature.  There is a great base here for a puzzle game, and I hope there is enough interest in TENS! for Kwalee to consider a sequel. 

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