Review: Baikoh

Baikoh: the child of Scrabble and Tetris. Randomized letter blocks first fill across the screen and falling blocks gradually fall and stack the pile higher and higher.

blocks falling.png                                                       game-just-started

Your objective is to tap on the correct letters in the correct order to form a word at the bottom of the screen. Once you form a word you swipe it and eliminate those letters from the pile.

making-a-word

Your second goal is to eliminate letters fast enough and in a strategic manner to keep any part of the stack from reaching the top of the screen, like in Tetris. When the tiles reach the top, you fail.

failure

If you misspell a word three times you are penalized by having several tiles fall to the stage at once.

when-you-misspell-a-word-three-times  when-you-misspell-a-word-three-times-part-2

 

It’s actually incredibly fun. The pressure of trying to pull off a longer or more complicated word or simply save time against falling pieces is a satisfying feeling.

Though there are many caveats to the gameplay itself. The game mainly suffers from the closest thing it can call a balancing issue. Towers in Tetris stack in accordance with your own decisions, confusion and trying to navigate the geometry of the stacking level. You gradually slip and fumble in Tetris, and as these mistakes pile up in specific places you’re forced to circumvent it and try to fix the problem by resolving the rest of the level. In Baikoh, blocks are stacked according to a program in order to give a greater challenge to the player by taking away the player’s ability to manage and prioritize where the blocks go. Meaning that Baikoh purposefully stacks blocks in areas that will pressure you, i.e. parts that are already tall become taller, forcing the player to prioritize letters and possible word choices in those areas over others. In both concept and correct execution, this would be fine, the games need to be challenging and asking the player to prioritize taller sections of the grid to lower the whole stage is a good and obvious way to do it. In actual gameplay, though I found quite of few instances of the game over prioritizing one section along with an increase in frequency, resulting in a small part of the stage reaching the top faster than is manageable.

The main game comes in two single-player forms “Solo” and “Zen”, Solo being the, intended regular game. You can earn in-game currency by playing matches and earning a higher score. The coins can be exchanged before a match for badges, which grants the player special power-ups. These power-ups include abilities like points bonuses, multipliers, tile eliminating, etc. There isn’t much to say about them, they affect the game and metagame as much as their descriptions imply, and for a power up that’s as much as you could ask for. Various traps will fall down over the course of your game, each with a much different effect. Traps come in the form of letters. The bomb trap you have to include in a word to eliminate before it goes off and makes several blocks unusable. The ice trap freezes the blocks immediately touching it and requires that it and the blocks it touches to be used twice.

Ice-trap.png

There are many others that I won’t go into here, but like the power ups, there isn’t much to make note of. The Traps do their purpose of adding pressure to your playthrough and frustrating the player. the one problem I had with the traps is the infrequency of some of the traps. The bomb and ice traps were almost the only traps I saw.

If you don’t want to worry about traps, power-ups, coins, or anything else in regular mode then there’s Zen mode. All you have to worry about is playing the base game I mentioned in the first part of this review. The game deserves bonus points just for the sheer inclusion of that ability to play in a different way and in a less stressful environment.

The game surprisingly does have a multiplayer, in three forms no less. You can choose to gamble your coins, not gamble, or choose the “whatever” mode that allows you to pair with players in either of the two previous options. The way multiplayer works is simple, while you try to play your game the opponent is likewise, the first player to have their tiles reach the top loses. The kicker, what were traps in the solo game are now weapons for you to use. Special tiles will fall down called “weapons” when you use these tiles in a word they activate their corresponding trap (blue tile = ice trap, black and orange tile = bomb trap) on the other person’s game, creating an extra layer of sabotage. Typing longer words increases your chances of receiving weapons, so on top of increasing your point and coin reception, you have an active encouragement to seek out longer words. It’s really fun to play against an opponent because you have so much going on at once, while you feel this invisible clock tick down. You start to test yourself by looking for longer words, look to chain multiple weapons, and you feel a greater sense of urgency while playing against someone else.

I really enjoyed this game. Its core gameplay really tries to test your snap judgment skills and the juggling of priorities from moment to moment keeps the player engaged. Rarely does the game ever feel boring and the game presents the perfect amount of challenge. It feels incredibly satisfying when you manage to pull off interesting combos or bring down a tower that was becoming a problem. It’s a game that really looks to not only provide an interesting hybrid from two different game conventions but challenge you intellectually. By all means, try it.

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