Zenza [official site] caught my eye this morning. It’s a Japanese poetry-inspired tile puzzler. Well, it’s sort of a puzzle game because it’s about matching tiles and completing boards, but there’s more of a random element than I’d like so it sits uneasily between puzzle game and zone-out-while-you-match-things game for me.
What you’re doing is using tiles from a randomly generated selection to fill up different shapes of tile board. You can only place tiles next to each other if they match the adjacent symbol or colour. There’s a very pretty card game called Yardmaster that does the same thing but you’re doing it to build trains out of carriage cards.
The puzzle element is in the placement of the tiles to fill the board without getting stuck, and you’ll get a higher rating if you use all four colours and all four symbols while doing so. That’s the part where the randomness starts to chafe. Sometimes you simply don’t get the tiles you need so if you want the three star rating on each puzzle (and the game pushes you towards that in the way the end-of-level screen tells you how you did) you’ll need to restart the level and hope the tile draw is kinder to you this time around.
The levels are small enough that that isn’t too much of a punishment, but for me it’s not very satisfactory. Then again, I’m the sort of person who hates the solitaire version of Mahjong and the card game clock patience for similar reasons – random chance making it sometimes impossible to win so why invest? That’s why I figured I should still flag it up as a lot of people don’t find that element irritating, plus Zenza is only a few pounds (£2.09 with the launch discount on Steam).
I do find that the game ends up with a slightly confused identity, though. The official blurb is about the game being “no fail” and notes: “you can slice your unwanted tiles away, blow away your deck of tiles with the wind or undo a move at will. Be aware that if you do, your score may suffer in the end. Zenza allows you to use your wits and will to create your perfect game board.” But the emphasis on the scoring means I did feel like it was a failure to use those helper options.
Anyhoodle, I was still enjoying myself enough to finish off all the boards in the spring section, then the game announced I could now use koi for balance. I assume the koi are a new mechanic added in when you reach summer. I say “I assume” though and that’s because I think the game is bugged because I’ve got a three star rating on every level in the spring section but summer (and autumn and winter) are all still locked and there’s no indication of how they might become unlocked given there are no challenges left to complete.
So… kind of enjoyable but it seems to be broken at the moment (at least for me) which is a shame.