Review: Tangrams Deluxe

When I was growing up, I used to keep busy during road trips, and other times when a child’s idle hands need to be engaged, with a little puzzle box called Magic Block. It was this flat, black clamshell case containing eight blocks–each a different color and shape–all of which interconnected in different ways to create a perfect square and thus fit neatly back inside the box. Once the blocks were dumped out, the only way to clean up the toy was to solve the puzzle. There were something like 48 possible combinations, and the number of unique combinations you were able to figure out supposedly determined your IQ level.

Tangrams Deluxe very much reminds me of this childhood favorite puzzle game, only with a far broader range of shapes to figure out how to fill beyond just a simple square.

A type of logic dissection puzzle originating from China, a tangram consists of a set of shaped blocks which must be placed into the silhouette of a predefined shape in such a way that all of the blocks fit inside the outline without overlapping or crossing outside the boundary line. Tangrams Deluxe is a faithful, straightforward representation of traditional tangram rules in a videogame format, without any bells or whistles (except for the celebratory jingle that plays when a puzzle is solved).

The interface is exquisitely intuitive. Manipulating the blocks can be done in a variety of ways. Using traditional mouse controls, you click and drag the pieces into place. To rotate a shape clockwise, you can either repeatedly click a resting block or right click while holding a block above the surface. Spinning the scroll wheel while holding a block allows you to rotate it clockwise and counter-clockwise. A recent update also introduced controller support, which does work quite well. However, for this type of cursor-based interaction, a mouse is the optimal tool for the job.

Each puzzle consists of seven blocks: a square, a parallelogram, a medium right triangle, two small right triangles, and two large right triangles. These seven blocks are used to fill in shaded puzzle boards taking many forms. Cats, bunnies, dogs, aquatic life, birds, people, shoes, boats, buildings, geometric shapes, numbers, and alphabetic letters. Once the final piece is slotted in, the puzzle image springs to life with added black-ink doodling to create a scene, add a sense of motion, or simply to bring more detail and personality to what would otherwise just look like some colored shapes modeled to vaguely resemble miscellaneous real-world objects.

The game plays well and is fun for what it is, but it is exceedingly basic. Though authentic, the fact that every single puzzle uses the same seven block shapes proves problematic in a videogame environment. While the game’s nearly 250 puzzles are a significant quantity, manipulating the same shape configurations over that many puzzles grows predictable and a little tiresome. Once you’ve played maybe the first couple dozen puzzles, you’ll have largely mastered how the same seven shapes link together. A greater variety of block types would’ve helped the game immensely.

Due to the lack of increasing complexity from one puzzle to the next, the difficulty curve actually isn’t a curve, but rather a straight, flat line the whole way through. The game also could’ve used additional modes or gameplay modifiers, for instance a timed mode that would put you to the test against a ticking clock. Something that would add another layer of challenge and urgency, to offer a counterbalance to the leisurely atmosphere of the gameplay as is.

One particularly awesome thing about the game, though, is the fact that all of the puzzles are available from the get-go. All of the different categories are organized in groupings of nine puzzles, but progression through the game isn’t arbitrarily gated behind earning a certain number of stars or first completing a certain number of puzzles. You’re free to play any puzzle at any time, and complete them in any order. It’s always nice to have that freedom, especially if the situation should ever arise when a specific puzzle stumps you. At least if that happens you’re not locked out from skipping ahead to other puzzles.

Tangrams Deluxe has a lot going for it. There’s a fun variety of puzzle designs and object categories. The interface is snappy and easy to use. And the game has a colorful, charming presentation that keeps the tone happy and upbeat. The downside is the game lacks surprise and that all-important sense that you’re building on your knowledge from puzzle to puzzle.

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Game Info:
Platform: PC
Publisher: Vertical Reach
Developer: Vertical Reach
Release Date: 8/9/2017
Genre: Puzzle
Players: 1

Source: A Steam code for Tangrams Deluxe was provided to VGBlogger.com for review consideration by Vertical Reach.

Buy From: Steam and Itch.io for $4.99.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!