Roogoo: Twisted Towers Review

This puzzler had potential, but a few stumbling blocks suck out much of the fun.

You never realize how important visual clarity is in a puzzle game until it's taken away from you. Roogoo: Twisted Towers starts with the age-old concept of descending blocks and moves it into a 3D space. Then, it falls in love with its own 3D-ness, focusing more on fancy camera angles and dimensional depth than on affording you clear view of the action. A few levels rely so heavily on obscuring your perspective that you'll be ready to throw your Wii Remote in frustration. It's too bad that this one obvious issue is so prominent because there are fun moments to be found within this simple package, which reminds you that a square peg can't fit into a round hole.

The issues with obscured vision aren't obvious at first, however. The first 15 or 20 levels of Roogoo don't hint at the frustration that's to come, but instead, introduce you to the basics. Up to five different types of blocks-- triangles, cubes, stars, cylinders, and hearts--fall from above and toward rotating discs with those same shapes cut out of them. Your job is to rotate the discs so that the blocks can pass through, which you do using the B button on the remote and the Z button on the nunchuk. The game chooses which platform can be rotated at any given time based on the rules of that particular level. It's a simple concept, but when the blocks really get their move on, Roogoo is quite challenging. To succeed in the most demanding levels, you need a keen eye and quick reflexes.

Roogoo's greatest stumbling block, however, is that even the keenest of eyes will have trouble with some of the game's later, frustrating moments. "Cinematic presentation" may not be a phrase you'd associate with a puzzle game, but developer SpiderMonk was obviously trying to create one. Platforms are spread throughout the environments, and sometimes the camera will swoop into new positions to give you a view of the current controllable disc. These camera placements can be incredibly unhelpful. If a disc is particularly far away from the camera, it may take a few moments to identify the halo that indicates where on the disc the block will land; if the camera view of the platform is more from the side than from the top, it's difficult to judge depth and, therefore, a chore to keep up with the faster block showers. These issues culminate in the underwater levels, where the stacks of blocks (or in this case, treasure chests) may get so tall you can't see the aforementioned positional halo at all. In the same levels, the developers didn't account for the large interface elements on the screen, which obscure your view at crucial times. In a game that requires precision and quick response times, the inability to clearly see what's going on makes this an inexcusable design choice.

Cylinders are red, squares are blue. This poetry is better than the camera in Roogoo.
Cylinders are red, squares are blue. This poetry is better than the camera in Roogoo.

Thankfully, the better levels offer a nice challenge without resorting to cheap tricks. For instance, creatures called meemoos will appear and block the holes, so you need to speed up the falling blocks and bop the critters on the head to make them disappear. The finest of these levels let you get into a groove of meemoo bashing and platform spinning, and completing these levels can be very rewarding. The boss fights can be really fun too, such as one where you wave your net around using the remote to catch bats and thump a vampire with your hammer in between rounds of falling blocks. In an enjoyable pirate-themed scenario, you whack meemoos with your hammer as your blocks fire into the distance. On the other hand, a frigid boss fight in which you must wipe frost off your screen with the remote isn't fun at all, particularly when it's hard to see what's going on in the game.

That obfuscating annoyance also makes an appearance in Roogoo's split-screen multiplayer mode, where two local players compete to see who can get their shapes to the final disc first. This plays exactly as you would expect, though you can try to gain the upper hand during the match by dropping meemoos onto your opponent's platforms or coating your opponent's side of the screen with frost. If you want to win, you'll not only need to be accurate, but must also hasten the speed of your falling shapes whenever possible. The other multiplayer modes aren't as enjoyable. You can play the campaign with a friend, who does nothing more than wield a net to catch butterflies and blocks that ricochet off platforms you miss. This eases the burden of doing these things yourself (doing it all on your own can get overwhelming in the extra-hard levels), but it's no fun at all for the second player. Finally, there is party play, in which up to four people work out levels as a team. Here, each time the focus moves to a new platform, a new player takes charge of rotating it. Because your playable chunks are so limited and everything is so broken up, it's impossible to find that hypnotic groove intrinsic to a good puzzle game. You may end up acting as if you are in control of every disc even though you're not, just to keep up your mental momentum.

They may look like it, but the shapes are actually not stolen from Lucky Charms cereal.
They may look like it, but the shapes are actually not stolen from Lucky Charms cereal.

Standard puzzle levels are broken up by skydiving scenes, which play something like the arcade game Tempest. You spin about the perimeter of the screen, collecting shapes as they rush toward you and shooting down meemoos, aircraft, and anything else that would hinder your journey to the bottom. These shoot-'em-up excursions are meant to add variety, but they're unexciting and seem out of place. Instead, most of Roogoo's variety comes from its succession of interesting environments. You'll spin discs inside a whale's belly; above beautiful meadows; and within a dark, ominous city. The backdrops are simple but appealing, and there's a nice sense of progression in each locale as you advance through the levels it contains.

When it's running on all cylinders, Roogoo: Twisted Towers is an attractive and amusing diversion that challenges you in just the right ways. Regrettably, the developers appear to have been so enamored with fancy camera tricks that they overlooked an important element to any puzzler: visual clarity. Without it, Roogoo's ideas never fully take shape, and the game isn't likely to hold your attention for long.

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    The Good
    Many levels are challenging and rewarding
    Nice variety of environments
    A couple of clever boss battles
    The Bad
    All too often, you can't see what you need to see
    Skydiving isn't much fun
    Lame co-op and party play
    About GameSpot's Reviews

    About the Author

    Kevin VanOrd has a cat named Ollie who refuses to play bass in Rock Band.

    Roogoo: Twisted Towers More Info

  • First Released Jun 30, 2009
    • Wii
    Roogoo: Twisted Towers is a puzzle game featuring over 100 levels over 10 distinct environments.
    Average Rating16 Rating(s)
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    Developed by:
    Published by:
    SouthPeak Games
    Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
    Mild Cartoon Violence