App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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I can't think of a game that has given me so much joy along with so much frustration as Ticket to Earth. It's an episodic role-playing game that sets up a fantastic world and creates a neat puzzle-based combat system, only to subvert these things with levels that feel overly difficult and perhaps a bit too random. The difficulty of Ticket to Earth balances out the further you get into the game though, making for a satisfying experience, provided you can stick with it to the end.
Ticket to Earth is a sci-fi puzzle rpg set on New Providence, a mining colony that is falling apart in more ways than one. At the start of the game, you take control of Rose, a humble gardener, just as a massive prison break and uprising known as Zero Day kicks off. It's mostly a pretty boilerplate narrative, but it's delivered well and supported by a really intriguing and diverse set of characters that I'm interested to learn more about in the next episodes.
This story is doled out between Ticket to Earth's action, which involves playing through levels of puzzle-based combat. The puzzling here is of the tile-matching variety, where characters are placed on a battlefield full of colorful tiles that they can move between on their turn. This is done by drawing a line between tiles of the same color and symbol. In addition to repositioning characters, moving between these tiles also builds up the strength of basic attacks and can unlock the use of special abilities. It seems like a bizarre way to fight, but Ticket to Earth goes out of its way to acknowledge its combat mechanics in-universe via a mysterious religion known as The Movement.
With this combination of story and puzzle combat, Ticket to Earth is reminiscent of games like Puzzle Quest 2 and Might and Magic Clash of Heroes in mostly the best ways. I say this only as someone that completed the game though. Early on, Ticket to Earth has some odd difficulty spikes that might make you want to put the game down before you get to the good stuff the game has to offer.
I would attribute most of this to a combination Ticket to Earth's procedural-generation of tiles on levels, some poor messaging of the game's structure, and your character's relative weakness at the outset of the game. This left me in positions where I'd have to repeatedly restart levels before I had even taken a turn in hopes of getting a slightly better arrangement of enemies and tiles.
When I first started the game, I was doing this because I was hoping to complete the bonus objectives that Ticket to Earth includes in its levels, which the game eventually explains you can go back and get later once you reach a certain point in the story. Even after I stopped chasing those objectives though, there'd be times where I'd get a bad board that would doom me from the start.
A New Hope
After struggling through these difficult levels though, I was able to earn upgrades and abilities that give you much more control over the battlefield. Once I had gotten these tools and my characters got more resilient, I fell in love with the game.
When you aren't struggling to scrape by, Ticket to Earth's combat opens up into a deeply strategic experience, even just in this first episode. Given the huge upgrade trees and new equipment you get to see but not touch by the end of episode one, it seems like things will only get better moving forward, provided the next episode smooths out the difficulty curve.
The bottom line
Despite the frustrating randomness of Ticket to Earth, I had a really great time with the game. Between the interesting characters and (eventually) satisfying combat, I can't wait to see what's in store in episode two.