Review: Hands On! Tangrams (Nintendo DS)

Hands On! Tangrams
Developer: Storm City Games
Publisher: Island Officials
Genre: Puzzle
Release Date: 10/06/09

Hands On! Tangrams is an ironic title given that this is the first time I’ve played with tangrams that I couldn’t touch. So you see, it’s not really hands on at all; I used buttons and a stylus. It would be like a cooking sim called “Eat This! Food”. You can’t eat that food at all! It’s just some light shining at you through a screen.

It doesn’t even have a smell!

Perhaps I get ahead of myself.

The tangram is an ancient Chinese puzzle. Seven shapes are cut out of a larger square. These shapes consist of two large right triangles, one medium sized right triangle, two small right triangles, one square and one parallelogram. The object of the game is to place all these shapes, with no overlap, such that they match different silhouettes or outlines.

Some math teachers use tangrams as classroom manipulatives. It’s supposed to get kids excited about geometry. I often found that it just inspired kids to stick tiny green triangles up their noses and pretend to have boogers with right angles.

Does Hands On! Tangrams take this ancient Chinese ball and run with it, or does it simply excel in putting exclamation points in the middle of a thought?

1. Story/ Modes
Hector Navarro decides to give up his life as a Miami drug lord, and start fresh. He moves to Orlando and starts a massage parlor that caters to elderly women. That’s right folks, Hector Navarro has his hands on tan grams.

There is no story here, and the modes are limited to:
A. Play Tangams

Or

B. Play the Tangrams what you already played.

2. Graphics
A good chunk of this game looks as though it were assembled in MSPaint with only the aid of Clipart. I’m not exaggerating. I feel bad mocking the art, because I feel that it was made by an elementary school computer class. I guess I’d be proud if my daughter designed this game, but she’s six.

The animation is underwhelming. These come about at the end of every level. When a level is completed, the tangrams fall off, the silhouette fades and the object or animal the silhouette was supposed to represent appears. There are two frames of this thing that cycle.

None of the unimpressive art is really detrimental, though. The squares are square and the right triangles are right triangles. Id est, it doesn’t interfere with gameplay.

What’s obnoxious, however, is that the best art in the game is in the credits wherein we are treated to caricatures of the staff. That’s right, drawings of the game’s designers are the game’s graphical highlights.

3. Sound/ Music
There are ten worlds each with ten levels. Each world has its own song. There isn’t much to say about HO!T‘s sound or music except that, all in all, the aural aspects of this game aren’t disruptive.

4. Control / Gameplay
Hands On! Tangrams controls really well. Tans are moved via the stylus, and turned with left and right on the D-pad (or the buttons if you are a filthy left hander). Up on the D-pad flips the tan over, but that only makes a difference with the parallelogram as the other shapes all have reflection symmetry.

The gameplay is as follows.
1. Align the shapes to match the silhouette.
2. Look at the object that the silhouette was supposed to look like. (The resemblance is generally minor.)
3. That object appears on the top screen with all the other completed silhouettes.
4. Every ten times you do this the background and music changes.
5. After going through all ten backgrounds, you put the tangrams away.
6. The credits roll.

That’s it.

It’s just tangrams on a DS. Those expecting a new spin on the game must understand that the only spin here is that this version requires no table.

5. Replayabilty
The game has a medal system that rewards the speed at which each puzzle is solved. Unless you really have a strong desire to see many tiny golden circles on the DS screen, there isn’t much reason to replay HO!T.

Personally, I’ve never said “I want to make a lion out of triangles again!”

6. Balance
There is only the one level of difficulty; there is no easy or expert mode. Only two and a half hours passed from the time I powered up the DS to the closing credits. I was also doing other things.

Generally, you can blow through each puzzle by placing the big triangles down first, the filling in the rest. Most puzzles took about fifteen seconds with this strategy.

7. Originality
There aren’t a ton of tangram games out there, but they do exist. HO!T adds nothing new to the equation.

8. Addictiveness
The game is addictive enough. It’s easy enough to blow through the levels of HO!T. The celebration of beating a level is short, and before you know it the next level is in front of you. There is no lag from one world to the next, and the game never asks if you want to quit.

Basically, its addictiveness is based on its relentlessness.

9. Appeal Factor
Everybody loves triangles!

Everybody loves learning about geometry!

Right?

10. Miscellaneous
I finished everything this game had to offer in under three hours. I spent over three hours yesterday playing with the title screen to Scribblenauts.

It is a bad thing if your game provides less entertainment that the title screen of another game on the same system.

It also would’ve been nice had HO!T supplied a play option that allowed users to create their own tangram designs.

The Scores:

Story/Modes: Awful
Graphics: Bad
Sound: Mediocre
Control/Gameplay: Enjoyable
Replayability: Poor
Balance: Poor
Originality: Worthless
Addictiveness: Good
Appeal: Poor
Miscellaneous: Poor
Final Score: Poor Game

Short Attention Span Summary
Hands On! Tangrams does what it says on the box, and nothing else. The game isn’t notably bad, but it isn’t particularly good at anything either. All in all, it is way too short, too easy, and extremely shallow.

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