| Tiki-Rola

To move a wardrobe downstairs takes both strength and intelligence. A good removal man is able to identify spatial dimensions as invisible to the lay person as ultra-violet light, angling bulky furniture over banisters and steering it through doorways while you languish at the top of the stairs. Imagine, then, how difficult it must have been to erect the stone faces that glare sternly from the hills of Easter Island.

You don't have to imagine any more, because with Tiki-Rola Teazel hopes to simulate the experience as fully as it can. The object of this original and deceptively difficult puzzler is simply to place a block of stone end-up at a certain point on a level by rolling it lengthways and widthways over the ground, whereupon, to paraphrase Michelangelo, everything that isn't a man falls away to reveal the face of the god Tiki.

Every one of the 80-plus levels takes place on a tropical island hovering above a sea, and in looks as well as gameplay Tiki-Rola is fairly short on variety. There are no conveyor belts, no lasers, no patrolling dogs or flying platforms. But, then again, nor is there in chess, and that rarely stops anybody from having fun.

If Tiki-Rola were part of an IQ test, it would be the spatial processing part where you try to work out how many cubes a shape is made up of, or which one of a range of objects is the sample object from a different perspective. If you're good at visualising shapes, you should be okay.

Because Tiki is two squares high, if you tumble in a straight line towards the goal square without planning your approach, you've only a one in three chance of landing end-up. Less, if fact, because the game is always trying to make things difficult for you. This is the essence of Tiki-Rola. Each of the levels is a grid, populated by holes, trees, bushes, and rocks. To roll Tiki once lengthways you need at least three clear spaces ahead of you, free of perilous edges and impassable objects.

The problem is, after the initial set of forgiving puzzles you rarely get that much room to manoeuvre in, and so ensuring that you reach your destination at the right point in your rolling motion requires that you think laterally, tipping your block sideways, rolling it widthways, and mentally picturing where it needs to be in order to make it to the end upright.

So that you know what's possible, at the beginning of each puzzle the game tells you the optimal number of moves you need to make. If it says '5', that means it's possible, in theory, to reach the end by pressing a directional key just five times.

If you're incapable of this level of efficiency, however, there's no real penalty. You can fumble about in search of the correct solution for more or less as long as you like, and all you forfeit by doing so is a little flag above that level in the menu screen and your own sense of accomplishment.

While it's a nice idea, this is what keeps Tiki-Rola from being really great. There's very little sense of urgency, and it's all too easy to lose track of where you are and start groping about in the hope that you'll get back on track further down the line, or stumble by fluke onto the solution.

A comprehensive tutorial session would have helped, and, while we're not fond of stern treatment, tougher restrictions on how many moves you can make would have given focus to the game. A rotatable board, meanwhile, would have made visualising the correct path for Tiki much easier, since squares are often obscured by scenery.

Nevertheless, it's possible to see where you're going, and equally possible that you might impose a move limit on yourself in the absence of one from the game. How disciplined you are will to some extent determine how much you get out of Tiki-Rola. A more casual gamer might find this off-putting, but if you're a hardcore fan of puzzle games you shouldn't let this one roll past you.


Although it could really do with a better tutorial and stricter rules, Tiki-Rola is a challenging and highly inventive puzzler
Rob Hearn
Rob Hearn
Having obtained a distinguished education, Rob became Steel Media's managing editor, now he's no longer here though, following a departure in late December 2015.