App Reviewed on: iPhone XR
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I have conflicted feelings about Twelvesmith, the latest game from Flippfly. You see, Flippfly released the amazing Evergarden last summer, and part of what made it so great was that it was a combination of puzzle mechanics and narrative elements. Twelvesmith–in a lot of ways–feels like an early iteration of Evergarden. It takes the same puzzle formula of its predecessor, but instead of building on it, strips away a lot of what made the first game so special. It still makes for a good game, but it's less impressive this go-round.
Just like Evergarden, Twelvesmith is all about merging tiles on a hexagonal grid. If you haven't played Evergarden, then the next best comparison might be something like Threes!. Your play area starts with a few teal tiles with numbers on them, and you must merge tiles of the same number to make bigger numbers.
Your ultimate goal is to get up to twelve, hence the name Twelvesmith, but the game doesn't give you the tools to do that on its own. Rather than random tiles of larger numbers entering the play field, you can spawn smaller tiles off of your large tiles onto empty spaces, and these become the building blocks for creating even larger tiles.
When you spawn new tiles in Twelvesmith, they are guaranteed to be smaller than the number of the tile you used to spawn them. So for instance, if you use a six tile to create a new one, it will be any number between 1-5. Playing Twelvesmith successfully revolves around carefully choosing what tiles you use to spawn new ones, and reacting to the random number you get in return to ensure you can continue building toward twelve.
If this weren't difficult enough, Twelvesmith also constantly challenges you to deal with blocker tiles, which can create dead space on your board or decrease the value of an existing tile. These blockers can appear on any random space, but the game gives you a heads up as to where they will be via a countdown timer of sorts that advances with each turn you take. To clear these blockers either before or after they manifest, all you need to do is merge two tiles together on an adjoining space.
The puzzle mechanics in Twelvesmith are well thought out and elegantly presented, and I'm sure a lot of people can (and do) feel like it's a full, high quality experience. As someone who has played Evergarden though, I can't help but feel like this game is a bit of a step backward. Evergarden presents a lot of the same core mechanics as this game, but it does so with a healthy does of narrative and aesthetic ambition that is nowhere to be seen here.
In Twelvesmith's defense, there is something to be said for having a tried-and-true puzzle formula applied to a game in a more convenient form factor. After all, Evergarden is not playable in portrait mode and is a bit of a battery killer. Twelvesmith, on the other hand, has neither of these issues, yet is capable of delivering a comparable experience.
The bottom line
Twelvesmith and Evergarden share a lot of the same DNA, but it seems they were created to serve two, separate purposes. Where Evergarden is a lush and richly textured puzzle game, Twelvesmith is a quick-and-dirty version of the same thing that is much easier to play on the go. This isn't a problem, by any means. In fact, I bet a lot of people would prefer a more mobile-friendly version of Evergarden to play on mobile. For me, though, Evergarden was a really tremendous and special game, so by comparison playing Twelvesmith left me wanting.