App Reviewed on: iPad
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Reiner Knizia's Kaleidoscope is a puzzle game created by the prolific German-style board game designer Reiner Knizia. Unlike typical board game concepts - even the German-style ones - Kaleidoscope is an entirely solitary experience. The result of the single-player design and Knizia's game sensibilities is a fantastic puzzle game that is easy to learn, but hard to master.
The object of Kaleidoscope is simple: Players are given a set of paired hexagons and a board with patterns of elemental symbols. On each hexagon is a corresponding symbol, and players are tasked with matching every pair so that all available parts of the board are covered. While this may sound easy, each board is increasingly more intricate and offers multiple spots where players may mistakenly lay tiles.
Much like a crossword puzzle, if one tile that is misplaced, even slightly, it affects all moves that come afterward and prevents success. Although there may be multiple spots where a pair could fit, it is up to the player to reason out the one true spot where the tile belongs. In the beginning levels of the game this is somewhat easy, as there are a relatively large number of paired tiles that can only fit in one spot, which in turn make it easier to complete puzzles via the process of elimination. As players progress though, tile pairs that fit one specific spot become more and more of a rarity.
To Kaleidoscope's credit, seeing where tile pairs can go is made very easy as available spots light up when players select any particular tile pair. On top of this, despite being a visually simplistic game everything is designed to be so legible that it has its own kind of beauty, even though the game is largely just a bunch of tiles and black background
Beautiful as it may be, Kaleidoscope is not without its flaws. Namely, the control scheme in the game is a little unclear, which can occasionally affect performance. Although Kaleidoscope doesn't necessarily need the snappy controls of a more timing-based title, it can be difficult to place tiles where players want to. This wouldn't be a problem if the game didn't track the number of moves it took to complete each puzzle, but since a misplaced tile counts as a move, players may get punished for making a mistake they didn't choose to make. In addition, I found (at times) it took several taps to select a space before the tile went where it was supposed to go, which also created some minor frustration.
Control woes aside, Kaleidoscope is still a heck of a puzzle game. It has a very calming mood, and offers an experience I haven't quite encountered the likes of before. The name Reiner Knizia never really evoked anything in me before, but now it does thanks to Kaleidoscope.