This week I will be taking a look at Tales Of The Orient: The Rising Sun, which is a match-3 style puzzle game developed by Green Sauce Games and released on Steam in February 2015. I grabbed this game on a weeklong deal for cheap because I was really interested in the artwork and I love match-3 games for a quick blast of gaming. Having never heard of the game or the studio my expectations were rather low, but they were exceeded in every way because this game is surprisingly solid in both design and execution. At the beginning of the game you are invited to enter your name and choose a mode – Relaxed or Challenge – which will dictate how many turns you have in each puzzle. Relaxed gives you unlimited turns, where as Challenge has turn limits that can be raised during the course of the game. I went for Relaxed mode and was then told the story of a small village in Japan that has been torn apart by war. Your job is to rebuild the village by earning money by completing puzzles.
Tales Of The Orient: The Rising Sun is in many ways typical of it’s genre. You match three or more identical tiles and are rewarded with points. If any of the tiles happen to be sitting on a gold tile then matching them will collect the gold tile which is worth 50 gold coins which are then used to buy new buildings for the village. All levels have objectives, such as collect X gold tiles or match X Umbrellas, that you need to achieve to complete the level. There are also tiles that are blocked in some way, be it by ice, chains, metal plates or a wooden item such as a crate or planks. These tiles need to be matched more than once to release any tiles underneath. For example, chains (my nemesis on this game) require two matches to release the trapped tile and if that tile happens to have a gold tile underneath then a third match will be required. Also reasonably typical is the generation of bombs for a match of four or more tiles and the ability to unlock power ups such as the Dragon’s Breath – which acts in a similar way to the Star Gem in Bejeweled 3, except you can choose the central point. These abilities require a cool down of so many matches of a specific tile type before they can be used again.
However, Tales Of The Orient: The Rising Sun has a few nifty tricks up its sleeve that make it stand apart from others in the genre. For one thing, the board can be rotated at will to have tiles drop from a different side as all sides are able to release new tiles as long as there isn’t a blockage in the way. This makes the game much more interesting than its non-rotating colleagues and it is the first time I have seen this feature in a game of this type. The rotation element is important because if the top side is totally blocked (say by a row of crates) then you can end up with problematic empty space on the board. Another innovative feature is the ability to shuffle the board. This ability cools down in real time so if you get stuck help is never far away. Most of the time I don’t need to use it because I still have active matches on the board, but I have used it on occasion just to get some matches closer to that last pesky gold tile.
What really impressed me though, was the ability to choose the kind of match-3 game you would like to play at the beginning of each level. There are three to choose from. The first is “Swap”, which will be familiar to anyone who has played a Bejeweled game, where you can swap positions of tiles assuming that you are swapping into a valid match. This is the mode that I play most often, probably because I have played more Bejeweled than is strictly advisable. The next mode, “Chain” mode allows you to make matches by dragging over them to create the longest line possible – think Bookworm but with pictures and you’re about right. Finally, there is “Pop” mode where you click on groups of three or more tiles to remove them from play. This mode gets some use if I want a more relaxed game that is gentle on the old mouse hand. All of the modes are well implemented so whatever your matching preferences you’re sure to get fun gameplay!
Tales Of The Orient: The Rising Sun controls using only the mouse, and the controls are responsive and simple to master. Given the genre of the game and the ability to use “Pop” mode, I suspect that it would translate very well to a touch screen if that’s your preference.
The presentation of Tales Of The Orient: The Rising Sun is overall very impressive. The design of the village and the geisha character who pops up to tell you what you need to do is well done and still looks fine on my 24″ screen. Charm is in abundance such as when buying upgrades for the village sudden phantom hands will pop up bearing tools to create the building, which still raises a smile. The play boards are nicely designed with a few variations on shape that require an adjustment of strategy to get the one freaking gold tile stuck in the centre and the boards have simple but pleasing backgrounds. The tiles themselves are also will drawn showing Japanese-inspired items such as tea bowls and red gates – the design is also clever enough to avoid problems with tiles looking too similar which I have noticed in other games of this type.
In terms of sounds, Tales Of The Orient: The Rising Sun has a pleasing soundscape that, in spite of being made of short melodies, has not yet got old, even may hours into the game. The sound effects are also nicely done – I’m a particular fan of the loud DINK noise that accompanies a metal tile being broken. In general the game is presented so well that I can play it for extended periods which is unusual for this type of game – I generally play no more than an hour of similar games before excusing myself to play Skyrim. I think it has a lot to do with the story and my completionist streak kicking in!
Conclusion – Is Tales Of The Orient: The Rising Sun Worth Buying?
I was actually surprised at how much I enjoyed Tales Of The Orient: The Rising Sun, it was one of those games where I did what I needed to do to write a review and then kept on going because it’s just so much fun! I would highly recommend this game to anyone who is a fan of the match-3 style, Japanese style artwork or just puzzle gamers in general. It has a lot to offer, especially when you consider the ability to select a mode which changes the gameplay to keep it from getting stale. I would happily place this game in the top 5 in the genre so I think it is definitely worth a look!
Tales Of The Orient: The Rising Sun was developed and published by Green Sauce Games and is available on Steam for Windows, Mac and Linux/Steam OS. It costs £4.99, but is currently on a Weeklong Deal for £1.99 (ends 14/09/15)