iOS Review: Tsuro

Tsuro is one of those games that will always be in my game collection. It’s ridiculously easy to teach, it will play up to eight, and a game will take 15 minutes to play, including teaching. The premise is simple – everyone starts with a stone which is on the outside of the board. On your turn, choose one of the three tiles in your hand to play in front of your stone. Move it along the path until it reaches the end of the tile, and draw a new one. That’s it. If you go off the board or collide with someone? You’re out. Last one standing wins.

The simplicity and elegance of this game are fantastic. You’re not going to find a deep brain-blowing thinkfest here, but it’s so satisfying.

Recently, Calliope Games and Thunderbox Entertainment announced that they were working on a digital port of this game. While it seemed simple enough to convert, I wasn’t sure if it was going to hold on to some of the charm of the physical version. It finally came out, so let’s see how it looks!

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When you start the app, you’re greeted by some very soothing music and an image of the box sitting in what looks to be a zen garden. And to start? You actually have to “lift” the box lid. When you lift the lid, the board unfolds, the tiles come out, and you’re prompted to choose a color and drag it to your starting position. Then? It’s time to choose opponents.

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If you choose to play against the AI, you’ll have three different options: silly, clever, and tricky. Simply drag their stones to the difficulty level you’d like them to have, and it’s all set. Then the cards get dealt out and it’s time to play!

Gameplay is…well, it’s Tsuro. You choose a tile, which you can rotate by tapping on, and place it on the board. Then your piece (and anyone else who might be bordering that as well) moves along the path. Then you get a new tile. A perfect representation of the actual game.

So how does it translate? Does it evoke the same feelings as the physical game? It sure does. There’s a lot to love about this app, and one thing to…well…I’m not going to say hate, but I will say strongly dislike.

Since I want to end on a high note, let’s start with that one detractor. For some reason, the developers decided to use Facebook as their multiplayer matching engine. The game connects to Gamecenter, so I’m uncertain as to why they didn’t just use that, and as a result finding someone to play can be challenging. Or, you know, nigh impossible in my case. A major bummer here, but perhaps this will be expanded in the future to include other methods of matching.

But other than that, the game is fantastic. The attention to detail here is astounding. The game board, which could look as perfect as they want it to, has a fold in the middle and looks identical to an actual Tsuro board. When placing tiles, there’s a good chance that the lines don’t exactly match up, kind of like when you play them in the actual game. The small things like that show the care that was taken with this implementation.

IMG_0135There are three different modes of play – you can play the classic “last person standing” mode, one where the player who traveled the farthest wins, or one where you want to loop back over your own path multiple times. I have not once thought about playing Tsuro any way but the normal way, so these came as a pleasant surprise…and they wind up being harder than you would think!

The sounds are pleasing, with a constant relaxing soundtrack and the sound of a stone being dragged over…um…another stone when the pieces move. Player knockouts are well done. If two pieces collide, or if one goes off the edge, it explodes in a shower of color. It’s really the little things that make this app so enjoyable.

And there’s pass-and-play, which works like a charm. In lieu of easy online multiplayer, this works well when relaxing with friends.

So should you get this app? Well, that depends on how much time you’re going to invest in solo or pass-and-play games. If you live to play other using multiplayer, you might want to hold off. But if you’re content playing this on your own? I wouldn’t delay at all. This is easily one of the nicest apps to come our way!

Tsuro is available for $4.99 in the App Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/tsuro/id957124541?mt=8

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