App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
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It wasn't until I began playing To-Fu: The Trials of Chi that I realized something: there are a lot of games on the App Store that involve playing with food. Granted, most of them fall into either the "match 3" or "slice it up" categories, but that doesn't change the fact that people seem to love messing around with virtual edibles. Enter HotGen's latest title; a game that defies current conventions by combining a flavorless bean curd with puzzle platforming.
Each of To-Fu's one hundred levels has the same goal: to reach the pink fortune (kitty) cookie at the end. In the most basic sense this is accomplished by stretching the little white chunk with the headband in the desired direction, then letting go and watching him fly through the air before sticking to another surface. Only, surprise surprise, it's not that simple. Soon there are spiked surfaces, rotating blocks, slippery glass walls, crumbling floors and more. Each object and obstacle makes the trip to the end that much tougher, and pretty soon players will have to plan ahead if they're to have any hope of success.
All of the elements that make up To-Fu's gameplay are simultaneously simple and refined. Giving a level the once-over is as simple as swiping anywhere that isn't on the little white cube, and simply tapping a contextual icon that pops-up when he goes off screen will re-center the camera. Flinging him is as painless as stretching his gooey form in the desired direction and letting go while he does the rest. It's also possible to aim with more precision by dragging all the way to the desired landing spot while the little fellow stays rooted; straining and grimacing the whole time.
There's very little fault to find with To-Fu: The Trials of Chi. Just as a set of stages begins to feel dull, a new object or obstacle is introduced and everything is challenging again. I suppose it's fair to say that most of the levels, especially the early ones, aren't particularly tough, but that's probably why each one has three medals to collect: one for beating it, one for collecting all the chi orbs and a third for finishing using a set number of jumps. The one legitimate criticism I have is that aiming ricochet shots accurately is almost impossible. No matter what I try the angles always feel off. It doesn't ruin the experience, but it does cause a few of the bounce-heavy levels requiring one jump for the medal to devolve into several trial-and-error runs.
Without an "endless" mode or some other such business that we've all grown accustomed to in our iOS games, I worry that some players will simply expect to beat To-Fu: The Trials of Chi in a matter of days (or several consecutive hours) and move on to the next title. While this is certainly a possiblity, as it is with most popular App Store offerings, it's still bound to be an enjoyable experience. As for the rest of us who like to play our games a little bit at a time, To-Fu should make for a week or two (or more) of commutes that feel much shorter.