Otteretto

PC, Mac

A new puzzle idea! Otteretto, as its name implies, is a game about palindromes. Not words, but rather palindromic patterns, as you select chains of tiles from a grid that read the same forward as backward. The longer, and more complicated the pattern, the more points it’s worth, those tiles disappearing, with the aim to keep building to score targets in order to refresh the grid. Fall short of the next target, and it’s game over. And gosh, it really works.

That is, in fact, only one of five game modes, but it’s the only one available at the start, and it’s the one I keep going back to, even after I unlock others. It’s a superb puzzle game mode, really hooky, and dangles star-awarding goals ahead of you as you play. At first it’s about picking out little five-square runs you can spot. Then you start getting better at learning to construct significantly longer chains for big scores. And a while after that, it becomes apparent the route to getting further is about eliminating single cells (they are, after all, technically palindromic) in order to construct monstrous chains.

It is, I suppose, somewhere between a match-3 and Tetris, especially in the third mode where filling the screen with tiles means a loss. Here it’s about deleting chains while new rows are added in from the bottom each turn, and it’s pretty compelling itself.

The second mode – no I didn’t forget – is a puzzle mode, much like those in many match-3 games, where it’s about finding the palindrome that clears all the tiles at once. Given there are only three colours from which to make them, that can be a pretty fiddly challenge. In fact, the “Easy” puzzles are about the limit of how much energy I want to put into them, while the “Medium” challenges require a complicated process of note-taking (it adds an overlay to let you do this, although sadly not drawn by hand – high five, Tametsi – but rather faint lines between cells).

My only really significant issue with the game is that it hides its modes behind achievements in the previous ones. It seems bonkers that you have to persist with a mode you might not enjoy to reach an unknown one you might find far more entertaining. Just have them all unlocked at the start! Save the stars for cosmetics and bonuses.

It’s all perfectly presented, has a lovely ambient sea sound as part of its rather peculiar allusions toward being about otters (they sometimes swim in the background?), and clearly would fit perfectly on a touchscreen electric telephone. Which makes it deeply peculiar that this is currently only available for PC and Mac. It’s even framed portrait, so surely must be intended to head that way? Yet there’s sadly no “coming soon” on its site.

But until then, it plays very nicely on PC (and I imagine would be especially good on a Surface or the like), and I really commend it to you. This is a brilliant little puzzle game, at a very decent price, and despite its seemingly simple beginnings it really has its claws in me. Oh, and there’s a free web-based “classic” version if you want to give it a try.

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