Tropical Swaps is a fun puzzle game that puts a spin on the tried and tests columns genre. This time you have to match the top and bottom halves of animals by dragging the top (or the top section) of one column onto another. New animals and special segments are introduced and the game can be played in several modes too, more about that later.
The graphics and the overall presentation is about as good as things can get. Each animal has a cutesy cartoon face but it's also easy to work out the difference between the top and bottom halves of the animals. Icons and animal faces wobble and twist in a pleasant way and everything is bright and cute.
In terms of looks this is as good as any contemporary Nintendo game.
The sound is very well done too, with the perfect amount of subtlety applied to the music, and a sound effect for each creature from the baa for the sheep to less common sounds for the hippo! Any complaints concerning the graphics and sound would only be on a matter of personal taste.
The gameplay itself is perhaps the only possible sticking point. Matching shapes and dragging whole columns is a little bit less instinctive than a match-three or something like tetris so a bit more brain power and bit less instinct is used. Although many shapes benefit from combinations or require working out, the pace of the game is a little too frantic for the player to stop and think carefully about each move. There seems to be some balancing intelligence here in that the faster you play the faster the game gets.
The main motivation is points (there is an online highscore table) and playing against yourself for points is never as rewarding as playing to a specific goal, however there are lots of ideas included to give the game longevity and variety. Special combinations can rack up the points and some tiles match horizontally.
The action mode includes bonus levels every so often too, and if the columns pile up they don't instantly end the game but instead wobble for a few seconds giving you a short and exciting time to rectify the problem.
All of the tutorials and controls you could want are there, the icons and text are easy to distinguish and the game itself explains the new parts as it goes along. The big chunky columns would make it easy for someone with poor co-ordination to use the mouse and play.
There are very few faults with Tropical Swaps. It is one of the best looking games in this style I've seen, with top quality presentation and ease of use. The gameplay is fun and addictive, but perhaps not as much as some other similar variations on this theme. Features have been added to avoid monotony in the core gameplay, and I can't help feeling that the last level will not be any better to play than the first, but there's an awful lot to unlock along the way.
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