| Totomi

The animal kingdom is a ruthless place, as Totomi demonstrates. Crocodiles eat lions, foxes eat mice, beavers eat - uh - blocks of wood, mice send elephants legging it in terror and hippos squash pretty much anything they sit on - those are the rules of nature that have been around for millions of years.

And these are the rules you must abide by in Totomi as you build totem poles made of animals.

The rules are quite simple. You can stack three totem poles at a time and different animal blocks come randomly popping out in threes at the top of the screen. You must grab these animals then add them to whichever totem pole you like. It's choosing the best place to put them that's the difficult bit.

Determining where to put them all depends on how they will react to the animals already on the totem pole. A lot of this is common sense - a fish is going to get eaten by a lion, a dog is going to fight with a cat and so on.

Just in case you're not sure though, an icon appears at the top of each totem when you grab a block to tell you what will happen in each of the three positions you can drop it.

Your overriding goal in the main Story game is to score points and fulfil certain criteria. Points are gained by stringing together combos, which entail keeping, say, a food or breeding chain going.

Once you add something to the top of the totem which breaks that chain, you cash in the combo built up so far for totem points. Just so you know when you're going to end a combo, a handy exclamation mark appears at the bottom of a totem if you're holding a block that will finish it off.

The added level criteria are what stands Story mode apart from the Totem Marathon (another mode, which is just a point-scoring exercise against the clock).

In each level, you're given a couple of objectives to fulfil. One is to build a certain number of layers to the overall totem height and the other is usually more specific, such as make friends with 20 hippos (some animal blocks are 'friends' and putting them together adds one block to your totem).

These objectives lend a bit of weight to the Story mode but they also show up a flaw with Totomi: while the idea behind the game sounds excellent, in practice it's a bit of a woolly one that needs these objectives to create a lasting game.

Despite being clever, Totomi just doesn't feel as satisfying to play for long periods of time as classic puzzlers. Part of the reason is that it's quite easy - in shorter levels you can just chuck blocks down without regard for the consequences because your totems take a lot of stacking.

It also lacks any particular tension since you're only up against a fairly generous time limit.

Because of its gentle difficulty level and colourful animal visuals, it's easy to imagine younger gamers getting a lot out of Totomi. For the rest of us, it's a bit of a simple concept that doesn't build up into a really outstanding puzzler.


A clever, colourful animal stacking puzzle game that has plenty going for it for younger gamers but is a bit too simplistic for the die hard puzzle fanatic