Trixel Makes Your Brain Earn Its Keep

Posted: April 29, 2009 in Puzzle

In the annals of video games, many of us have seen plenty of games based on traditional concepts with their own original twist. Two that stand out for me this week include Gridlocked, a simple, yet fun time management game involving intersections, and Color Drops, a polished and highly customizable match-3. While numerous types of similar games exist in the iTunes store with more to come I’m sure, Gridlocked and Color Drops have already created their own class of gameplay. Now, you can add Trixel to that list. Simply put, it is one of the more engaging tile board games you’ll find. You’re thinking, “How can there be such a thing as an engaging tile board game?”

Trixel is a logic game that involves flipping tiles on a board to match a tile pattern. However, that is not what makes this game stand out. What makes Trixel different is its blend of twists, obstacles and power ups that gives this game its edge in this genre. Trixel has a terrific soundtrack by a band called Prison Diet that never seems to loop around…I may have been too immersed to notice. And the layout and graphics are elegant yet functional. A local scoreboard is included that tracks your progress in terms of stages completed, medals awarded, number of moves, and time spent.

The game offers two modes: Puzzles and Race the Clock. In Puzzles mode, you have a limited number of moves to match a tile pattern. There are 3 levels of difficulty: easy, medium and hard with a total of 100 puzzles. Easy is unlocked by default, and you will need to complete all the puzzles in this setting before you can access the Medium and Hard levels. Even in the Easy mode, Trixel can be quite challenging. A unique part of Trixel is the medal system where you’re awarded gold, silver and bronze medals based on your success in matching the pattern within a limited number of moves. However, you’ll need to score all gold medals to unlock the bonus puzzles. The gameplay is pretty straightforward: A cursor appears over the square that you’re moving, and arrows show which directions are available. You simply tap to flip the next tile.

In Race the Clock mode which is unlocked when completing level 30 in easy mode, you have 12 maps and 4 modes: Relaxed, Fast, Frantic and Furious. Think speed round because as soon as you finish one puzzle, another one is immediately thrown at you all of which must be completed within a time limit. The objective here is to think fast and complete as many as you can. A counter at the top of the screen provides a count of how many puzzles are in the series and how many have been completed. The scoreboard tracks your progress, and you can easily rack up 400-500 moves from a series in the span of 1-3 minutes as you run through puzzles. Of course, you will spend most of your time in Puzzles mode initially.

In Puzzles mode, the top of the screen shows you the pattern you’re to match, the level, the number of moves you’ve made, and the medal diagram illustrating the number of moves you need to qualify for the various medals. At the bottom of the screen are your various power ups (that you have to earn)—Warp, Undo, and # of Crystals—and your standard Pause button (fortunately you don’t have to earn this).

Now I get to the part where Trixel shows its true colors…the special tiles, obstacles and power ups. At every 8 levels, special tiles and obstacles appear. In terms of special tiles, there are several that you’ll need to understand and master. Diagonal tiles allow you to move diagonally, up/down, and right/left and usually appear randomly placed throughout the board. Then there are the Wormhole tiles, which for better or for worse will transport you from one wormhole to another usually on the other side of the board. This will annoy you as much as it does for me, but you’ll learn to develop strategy around them. Other tiles include Sequence, which you must land on in the order indicated (e.g. 1st, 2nd); Nuke which creates a chain reaction flipping of tiles; Counter which counts down the number of times you need to land on them until it reaches zero; and Rollback which resets the entire puzzle to its initial state (that’s the epitome of frustratingly challenging). More special tiles can be found in the game, but I’ll leave you to experience those for yourself.

During the game, crystals will randomly appear on the board that can be collected for power ups. Most of the time, I wind up starting over because they appear right at the time I’m about to finish a puzzle. Of course, if you try to go back and collect it, you’re usually toast. As I mentioned, an Undo option isn’t just handed to you; instead it will cost you 2 crystals. A Warp power up which enables you to move from one spot to another of your choosing runs you 4 crystals; while Skip Puzzle which allows you to move to the next puzzle will take 8 crystals. In Race the Clock Mode, the primary power up is a time increase of 5 seconds to the clock that will leave you 2 crystals poorer. It’s a creative set up that adds a significant level of challenge and replayability to Trixel.

Trixel is challenging and addicting as is, but it could use some tweaking to appeal to a broader audience. While not impossible, achieving gold medals for each of the single puzzles to unlock bonus puzzles may be asking a lot especially of casual gamers. Aside from this, another thing that could be changed in an update is to offer the Race the Clock—at least the Relaxed mode—unlocked to start so that players can have the option right away. It would open up the game to those who like the pressure of a timed environment. Having said that, Trixel is easily one of your best bets if you’re into puzzles and logic games and will provide hours of gameplay.

Check out my TouchArcade review at


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