The Tide Is Nigh: Tidalis

Right. This is a funny one. Releasing today is the new game from Arcen Games, who you remember from the splendid expansive and original space-strategy game AI War: Fleet Command which you may remember from our long-running diary series which you may remember from Quinn’s constant and chronic lack of Iron. Anyway, his new game is totally nothing like that. I actually have used the logo as the header, as if I just show a screenshot you’d go “Casual square-matching game! No!” and click away. But this is a lot niftier than that – it really seems like exactly how you’d imagine the creator of AI War would make a square-matching game, in terms of quietly adding depth. I’ve only had a quick twenty minutes of it, but it has a mass of content and highlights its rotate-square-create-chains dynamic perfectly. Give it a shot, on PC or Mac. You can buy it from ten dollars direct from the developer, or on any of the usual direct-download places. Well, at least when they appear later today. Launch trailer follows…


  1. Memphis-Ahn says:

    Boy, sure is casual in here.

    I have AI Wars, it’s pretty fun, but I’m sure Arcen will forgive me for not getting this.

  2. Robert says:

    I’m just here to support Debbie Harris. (I’m sorry Paragons.)

  3. Vinraith says:

    I’ll admit, this isn’t my particular cup of tea. However, I’m pleased to see it release on time, because it implies that Arcen’s release schedule is chugging along, and there are several things on that which are very much my cup of tea. Witness:

    link to

    Release Schedule

    Here are our current release targets for upcoming projects (subject to change):
    Jul ’10: Tidalis
    Aug ’10: AI War Unity/OSX
    Aug ’10: AIW: Children of Neinzul
    Q1 ’11: Alden Ridge
    Q2 ’11: AI War Expansion 3
    Q2 ’12: A Valley Without Wind
    2013: AI War Expansion 4
    2013: Cayenne

    Alden Ridge and A Valley Without Wind both look interesting, and the more AI War releases the better.

    • Vinraith says:

      After having given the demo another shot I’ve somewhat changed my mind. The action puzzle game modes aren’t necessarily to my taste, but the brain teaser mode is pretty great actually. It’s an unusual enough mechanic that it’s positively brain-breaking to figure out how to bring down a large block pile in one move, and maybe if I play a bit more of that I’ll feel more competent when playing the faster modes. Anyway, I may end up getting this after all. It’s a pretty unusual puzzle game, features some great brain teasers, and it helps fund more AI War as a bonus.

  4. yhancik says:

    I want more games with a “Most Collected Teddy Bears” counter.

  5. Wolfox says:

    I’m not really into match-3 games, generally speaking, but I bought Tidalis to support Arcen Games (so they can do more AI War ;-D). The thing is – Tidalis is great. Really good, in a very good way. Better than I thought it could possibly be. Which only makes me want to support Arcen Games even more, which is why I’m writing this very comment.

    In short: don’t dismiss this game outright. Download the demo and try the game. You might be pleasantly surprised, as I was.

  6. Owen says:

    This looks more casual than it is. It’s definitely worth trying its demo. The trailers don’t deliver justice to the depth of the game.

  7. Jonathan says:

    Hmm, Quinns. Where the hell is Quinns?

  8. Frankie The Patrician[PF] says:

    my eyes went all watery and with a spark to it anime style after seeing the trailer (especially after the part with an ADVENTURE MODE)…I MUST TRY the demo.
    I’d bet Penny Arcade might like it…

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      Bah. Penny Arcade even like console games. If they can like those.. they can go for ANYTHING.

  9. Javier-de-Ass says:

    it really is a great game. arcen ROCKS

  10. FalseMyrmidon says:

    Looks like a game to “pay the bills” so they can keep making games they want to make (AI War).

    Looks like it has a nice twist on it though for a casual puzzle game judging by how I can’t tell what the fuck is going on in the trailer.

  11. dadioflex says:


    As in, nobody cares about indie games.

    AI War was shit. The expansion made it less shit but… well… I dunno that… yeah, still shit.

    That’s not even my personal opinion. I’m fighting it back. It’s the opinion of my church. My minister is quite vocal on the subject. He said that statistically speaking, they don’t even exist. I asked him, who doesn’t exist? He laughed at me and said, “Indie gamers don’t exist.”

    That’s crazy talk, and I tried to ease his pain.

    But… is it crazy talk?

    You get three people on the comments threads bigging them up….

    Blah, blah, blah, boo hoo hoo.

    Save yourself the anguish.

    There are 48 million people playing COD:Whatever The Fuck.

    By comparison, these indie games do not exist…. unless you have ridiculous criteria for what is, or isn’t, a reply.

    I asked some more. Do you exist, I asked…

    Trust me, I grew tired of writing “Nothing happened” long before I tired of writing “Overwhelmed by answers”

    • Wulf says:

      So, you just described a game that appeals to a niche audience, there. You did so in a particularly interesting way, too, so I’ll happily give you points for that. Unfortunately, you aren’t the first person to notice this, as developers have known it for years. RPGs were once a niche audience, in general, and point & click adventure games were niche for a time, before becoming mainstream, and then going niche again. Today we even have niche MMOs, because not everyone wants to compete with the big guys.

      And that’s the trick, you’ll never have the sales of whatever-the-hell-is-popular-in-the-mainstream-now, so instead you create a game that’s targeted toward a very specific audience. Sometimes you’ll find a degree of success – and there have been success stories throughout the history of gaming – and sometimes you’ll just fail, horribly. Developers big and small, indie and published, many appeal to niche audiences.

      So, compared to ‘the big boys’, a niche game will never see those sorts of numbers, but a game with far-reaching appeal has to try to be something to everyone, and therefore ends up not being particularly special. I was underwhelmed by pretty much the entire Call of Duty series, I thought they were a bit shit, truth be told, and that’s the nature of these games. They’re not particularly brilliant, they don’t try to be interesting or to achieve anything, they’re just brainless entertainment for the masses who want that.

      A niche game, however, will always be an absolutely amazing and bloody marvellous thing to the demographic it targets (if the developer is good at making games, at least), and we get some real gems, those that do try to achieve something, those that are brilliant, those that exist outside the norm, they’re risky, they’re not going to sell a lot, and there’s always going to be one group that’ll love them. I hope we never stop seeing niche games, because if we did… well, gaming would be a lot worse off for it.

      It might not matter in the greater fiscal scheme of things, but not everything is about the monies, this is more about gaming, and niche games are integral to the very fabric of gaming, and without them… it would all just pretty much unravel.

      (And in case you’re about to ask me for an example of a success story: Minecraft.)

    • TeeJay says:

      You don’t get people saying “it’s shit because it won’t make any money” after listening to a poem. Most people don’t agonise about the music they like not being number one in the pop charts. People don’t sit around bitching about the box-office takings of the movie they just watched.

      Isn’t it time we stopped being so obsessed by sales figures (good and bad) and allowing them to dominate so many discussions about games? Or at least set some different benchmarks and comparator groups – even corporations tend to benchmark themselves against their own specific sector and business size. Rappers are compared with other rappers not with opera singers. Sure consumers have an interest in developers making enough money (a “reasonable return”?) so they carry on making the kind of games that consumer enjoys but beyond that does it matter how big the corporate profits are (and most of the time do we even know what the real sales figures, revenues, costs and profit margins actually are?).

      In the past some of the greatest art and culture has come from peniless artists, sometimes only supported by wealthy patrons or surviving by doing teaching work or another ‘day job’. Some has emerged from communities doing it out of fun, tradition or religious belief … and while some ‘great artists’ have become wealthy (and others died broke) there have been plenty of people who have managed to make a fortune from mediocrity.

      In other words can we have a bit more clarity when labeling a game “good” (eg creative, aesthetic, fun or criteria X) + “widely played” + “profitable” (made someone money: costs minus revenues divided by shareholders etc).

    • Arathain says:

      Besides, AI War is actually really clever and excellent.

    • Dawngreeter says:

      The music I listen to is statistically nonexistent, too. My hairstyle is statistically nonexistent. And we, the statistically nonexistent, are doing fine thank you.

    • Psychopomp says:


      link to

  12. Keith LaMothe says:


    Well, I’m glad to see that not all the comments are super-positive. I was starting to worry that we’d unintentionally concocted some kind of mind control. If I ever do something like that, I’d prefer that it be deliberate.

    Anyway, to the point: regardless of whether indie gamers exist, a number of them are having a whole lot of fun playing AI War and Tidalis (not to mention tons of other indie games). That number is sufficient to make it a profitable business for folks like us (Arcen). We might also not exist, but we’re also having a ridiculous amount of fun making these games.

    Before I came on the project I also suspected that “we can really cash in on the casual market” was a big motive behind making Tidalis. Having worked on it these past months, however, I can attest that we had a simply ludicrous amount of fun making the game, and we really think it does something fresh (not easy in this genre-cluster). To be honest, we are hoping this will get us a good start on filling that Scrooge McDuck swimming pool. And yes, the main reason for that is that will give us greater freedom with future projects (including ongoing development of AI War). But Tidalis was no mercenary effort, I assure you ;)

  13. James Allen says:

    Tidalis is one of the best puzzle games I’ve ever played (been playing the beta for about a month in preparation for my upcoming review Wednesday). Please buy it so that I have somebody to play with and against online.

  14. Drifter says:

    When I saw it listed on Steam and watched the video, I wasn’t impressed. I’ve been burned on a couple of these “square-matching” casual games in the past year or two. Seems like there are a lot of Puzzle Quest wannabes but none come close.

    But seeing some positive comments, I’ll give the demo a shot.

    BTW Arcen Games, update your homepage (link to Currently shows info from June about the Tidalis beta. If someone quickly scrolls down the page (not paying attention to the title) and they see that “not finished” list, they might think Tidalis shipped out unfinished.

  15. Matzerath says:

    I applaud the making of casual games that will sell well and then using those profits to make esoteric fringe-market passion-project games. It would be like Popcap secretly funding elaborate turn-based strategy games.

  16. Lars Bull says:

    As a bit of a followup on what Keith said:

    Tidalis actually started because Chris Park and I were interested in working on a game together. I’d been wanting to try out a really unique (and boring, as we later discovered while prototyping) puzzle game idea I’d come up with. We liked puzzle games in general, so we decided to give it a go. We figured that this would be a rather short project and that it was likely we’d take a loss on it; there are just so many puzzle games out there that it’d be hard for ours to get noticed (and do people really need more puzzle games?). It was definitely not something we made with intentions of making much profit.

    What we wound up with is a game very dissimilar to the original idea which took significantly longer for us to make than intended. I’m a hardcore gamer and huge puzzle game fan; I think the genre can be a really fantastic one, with games like Tetrisphere, Wetrix, Planet Puzzle League, and Meteos ranking among my absolute favorite games. Clearly I’m biased, but I think that Tidalis is just plain fun and at least near the quality of those. I can’t count the number of hours I’ve sunk into it, yet I continue to enjoy it and remain excited about the seemingly endless possibilities the game has. It may have a casual coat of paint, but Tidalis is every bit the hardcore puzzle game I set out to make. The game mechanic is really unique and non-trivial, there are many advanced tactics to learn and use, there is tons of variety, and the game can be as incredibly difficult as you can imagine, if you want it to be. I know it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I do think it can appeal to a lot more people and has a lot more merit to it than it might seem at first glance.

    • TeeJay says:

      “…do people really need more puzzle games?…”

      Maybe not, but I’d love a set of games hidden under a suitable icon that I could install on the computers of various senior-citizen family members to wean them gradually from Solitaire and onto more interesting and diverse games. Preferably something with an easy to remember name/brand so that they also tell their friends about it and with a one-button automatic download/installation-to-desktop method.

      I have tried introducting some of these people to more full-on games and browser-based websites, but they are still stuck in a Windows 3.1 / Windows 98 circa 2001 style mind-set and seem to prefer the very basic interface and reassuring Microsoft-familiarity of Solitaire etc. Ideally no cartoon characters, no swear-words or blood, no whizz-bang or over-colourful graphics and a nice steady (or zero) pace. Maybe derivative of or including some of the classic board- and card- games.

      tl/dr “popcap for oaps”

  17. Bassism says:

    My interest has certainly been piqued with this one. I do enjoy such things occasionally, and if it’s got depth and interestingness, it could perhaps take the place of Peggle on my lazy gaming nights.

    Keith: You really ought to port it to the iphone. There is a ridiculous swarm of match-x games on the platform, but most are rubbish. The games that actually do something deep and interesting (as I’m assuming Tidalis does, having not played it yet), however, can do very well.

    …And I want a match-x game on my phone that doesn’t suck.

  18. bookwormat says:

    I like this type of games, but I prefer to play them on a mobile PC. I would have prefered they made this a web application, or an Android app.

  19. says:

    Trailer promises “Color-blind friendly”. It’s good to see someone’s doing things right.

    • Josh W says:

      That’s the thing I was happiest about too, but I’d be happier still if it turns out to be a casual game with true depth.

  20. Daniel Calcei says:

    I must say, after playing the demo, this a must buy for me. I can see there’s a heap of depth and I’ve only played the tutorial on a couple of levels. Thanks a lot for actually having a demo, too. It’s pretty much the only way companies should be going these days and another indie dev (working on Rhythm Zone) came up with some bullshit reason about not having a demo. So, I’m not going to buy their game.

    • Frankie The Patrician[PF] says:

      AD Rhytm Zone
      I’ve read the Steampowered thread…Their PR is terrible – Beat Hazard’s dev bashing (who cares about AAC…c’mon, iTunes crap), no demo..did they hire an ex-Activision marketing team or what? That’s not an attitude indie devs should have…

  21. tannerd says:

    You bastards. I’ve just lost an hour playing this. An hour I didn’t have.

    And now I’m going to lose an afternoon playing it – I should be outside, enjoying the weather! But no, I’m going to be playing this infernally addictive game.

    PS Any chance of an iphone version, so I can play outside? ;)

  22. getter77 says:

    I would like to think the amount of cursing that I’ve engaged in at times via Adventure mode deftly sidesteps the land of casual “win-button” dynamics.

    Definitely worth a shot, not a puzzle quest game, etc.

  23. fearian says:

    That sounds awful. I don’t mean the premise or the gameplay, I mean the SOUNDS!


    What on earth? Its a nice Idea, abut how about using some gentle sounds that compliment each other?

  24. Keith LaMothe says:


    You may just want to turn the sounds off :)


    If you can convince Apple to clearly and publicly state that it will not categorically reject games running on the Unity3D-engine (for TOS 4.0), then we would probably be willing to invest the resources into the tools and the porting, etc. However, the present state of affairs is that we wouldn’t know until we submitted the app for approval whether the investment was dead-in-the-water.

    Android would be nice, though. We’ll see how things go. The PC/Mac versions kinda have to sell decently well to make porting make sense :)

    • Bassism says:

      Right, I’d forgotten about the Unity hoopla with ios 4. Hopefully something definitive gets said at some point. To be honest, I think you could very well see more success in the mobile market than on the pc/mac.

      If nothing else, I do rather enjoy the game, and will likely pick it up when I’ve got the dosh. I have to say that I find the sound design pretty terrible. The music is very, very nice, though occasionally loops weirdly. The jangly, off-key, out-of-time sound effects drive me insane, however, and I had to turn the sound of before I finished the tutorial. Maybe there’s a reason for it, but it seems an odd choice to me :P

  25. pakoito says:

    I think some menus need a little touch. That QUIT button present in all menues down left looks more a cancel/back so it can be easily mistaken.

    GL with the sell, I kinda liked the game ;)

  26. Schaulustiger says:

    I intended to pick this up only to support further AI War development, but boy, this is one damn fine puzzle game! It may seem casual at first and can be played in a very laid back manner, but some of the more difficult stuff is really brain-twisting.

    Great idea, great implementation, this deserves to outsell Bejeweled.

  27. Lambchops says:

    Do I need more puzzle games? No. i’ve got tons of brilliant ones that I could dip back into again seeing as I haven’t touched them in ages.

    Do i keep buying puzzle games? Yes. I’m easily addicted to games with good puzzle mechanics and if a demo manages to impress me and the game is reasonably cheap then I’ll buy it on impulse.

    Just like I did with this. From the demo it seems not only like a good mechanic but s very versatile one. There’s something there for everyone. So while the modes with item overload or mashing as many combos as possible through more luck than judgement don’t appeal for every one of those there’s a much more considered brainteasing mode (the puzzles themselves, moon and star mode) which twists the game into something I can sink a ton of time into.

    Nice work, well up there with the Lumines and Puzzle Quests as games that are great to have either a quick blast of or while away hours with.

  28. Collic says:

    This is actually very good for what it is. It deserves to do really well. It’s easily as good as any of the popcap puzzlers.