Pigs! They're everywhere! And not just pink pigs, but yellow ones, green ones, blue ones, orange ones, even some red ones. No, I've not been eating LSD-soaked ham. I'm playing Tweens HD, an iPhone/iPad game containing more pigs than a sausage factory. It's your task to clear them before the time runs out, if you want to save your bacon. Chop chop! Bring on the apple sauce, we're going in...
This fast-paced puzzle game sees you confronted with a square grid filled with porcine specimens. You can match any two pigs of the same colour as long as they can reach each other - adjacent pigs are easy, and distant piggies will zip across the farm to meet their cousins. Can you match them all up before the time runs out? If your pigs are trapped, you can hold down a finger on one and launch him as a rocket pig to a distant target. All sounds simple? Good! But that doesn't mean it isn't tough...
If I were to sum up a successful game of Tweens HD in one word, that word might possibly be "bonuses". Match up many pigs quickly and you'll briefly freeze the timer. Match the same colour pigs to get a score multiplier. Match one of each colour without repeating any to activate Rainbow Mode and temporarily turn all the pigs the same colour! There are bonus points for finishing with plenty of time (or nearly no time) and for long journeys (the Traveller Bonus). There are sheep and rocks that get in the way, and a sheepdog to help you herd your, um, herd. And if you're desperate, you have a limited stock of bombs to blast friend and foe alike. Grilled pork, anyone?
Bright, cheerful and decidedly cartoon, Tweens HD is a riot of colour. Pink pigs, yes, I've seen those before. Some breeds can even have a bluish tint, and I have heard that pigs can get sunburns, so red pigs might work. I struggle more with yellow, green and orange pigs! Mostly you see the piggies' faces as you look down on the pen, and they show various expressions as you tap on them. The look of panic on a group of pigs when you fire a bomb at them is wonderful to behold! Sheep and dogs are less visually impressive as they do not animate, but there are lots of little touches, such as the piggy footprints (trotterprints?) in the mud when they go a long distance, the floating butterflies on the score sheet and main menu, or the way the bonuses at the end of a level seem eager to shove each other out of the way. There's been a lot of effort put into the graphics, and it shows - even though, sometimes, blink and you'll miss it.
There's a range of squeals and such for the sound effects, not to mention the dog's bark and various other odds and ends. There are two music tracks - one for the main menu and one for the game itself. For the in-game you can switch from music to "ambient", which has lots of nature/farmyard background noises instead. You can adjust the volume for sound effects and music/ambience independently, which is always welcome. You may want to mute the sound or use headphones if you're playing in public, however!
If you're used to a more sedate matching puzzler, this could be a bit of a shock. I think this is the first game in living memory that I have managed to lose in the tutorial level, simply because I hadn't realised the clock was ticking. And it ticks FAST. Seriously - don't hang around looking for the perfect move. Get those pigs matched up as fast as you can! Neighbours are easily matched - if you have a piggy trapped somewhere, a rocket pig is your best answer. Of course, this takes a bit longer to trigger than a regular match, so doing too many of these may doom you. You start with three lives, and earn another one for every 100,000 points. There are also challenge rounds every five levels featuring a sea of the same coloured pig - match these all up in the rather tight time limit to earn a bonus and an extra bomb.
Tweens HD features a steadily climbing difficulty curve. At first it's just you and the pigs - then the sheep start appearing, and when you get eight of them popping up on a level it gets pretty tough. And that's not even mentioning the rocks! There's a list of achievements via GameCentre, and these have confused me a little - some seem to refer to an "endless" mode, and I've not been able to find that. Perhaps I need to beat the main game first? So far I've reached level 69, and have no idea how many there are. The bad news is that you have to start every new game at level 1. If you fail, you have the option to continue with one of your extra lives, but you can't simply decide to start from (say) level 10 if you want more of a challenge. This strikes me as a missed opportunity and would be a good addition to a future update.
Generally Tweens is a highly polished effort, but I did notice a few oddities. On one occasion I was forced to use a bomb as one of my last two pigs was trapped behind rocks and, because the previous match had triggered a Rainbow Mode, I couldn't use the rocket pig approach. For some reason rocket pigs are disabled when Rainbow Mode is active. Some functions (including bombs) prevent you from doing anything else while they activate, but the timer still ticks down. I have lost lives due to this sort of thing, and find bombs are often of dubious value. It took me a while to realise that Rainbow Mode is not fully triggered until I select which colour pig I want them all to turn into. And most baffling of all is how the tutorial expects you to read and follow its instructions within the time limit! It would be better for the tutorial level to either have no timer or to pause it while instructions are shown. Still, none of these are fatal flaws and could all be easily fixed by an update.
Fiendishly addictive, simple and yet frenetic, Tweens HD is a good way to burn up any spare time you have going to waste. A solid and effective puzzle game for those that like playing fast and furious. Well done!
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