The number based puzzle games 2048 and Threes! both were enough to keep me hooked when they were released in 2014. Slowly though, my addiction waned and I found other games to occupy my fingers on the train.
Now, over a year later, Niaki has resurrected my addiction. Bringing the same tile sliding gameplay, it swaps numbers with colors to create a bright, fun, and easy to pick-up puzzler.
Niaki is the kind of game that will has everyone that sees you play interested, and then trying to help. And, while that is annoying, it clearly speaks the raw appeal of its simple, strategic gameplay.
The concept is simple, slide match colored tiles together to form larger, single-shade groups. Tiles can only move across one other color to meet a matching block, and - once joined - cannot be separated unless a larger grouping is being formed.
It may sound complicated on paper, but it only takes seconds before you are dragging and sliding groups of tiles around the screen to create huge sections of color.
Where Niaki differs from its number-based, tile-sliding brethren is that it begins with the screen completely filled with blocks. Rather than chasing a high score, your goal to get all of the red, purple, green, blue, orange, and yellow tiles together in groups, with your score decided by a percentage of paired tiles. 100% = victory.
Plan and play
This allows for more forward planning than 2048 or Threes!, with the randomness removed. It’s a small change that makes a huge difference because you have to think how every slide and combination of tiles will affect future moves.
The result is that eventually you are planning moves like you would on a Rubrics Cube. You look at a board and see that you can make a line of five, but realize that by doing the play area becomes bisected, making it impossible to move smaller groups.
But, this single long block, could also provide the perfect way for you to slide distant matching groups together with them able to travel all the way along its single colored surface. Thus, one simple move can have a huge impact - both positive and negative - on the play space.
Despite a clear visual look - and an almost tactile feedback from the tile animations – Niaki's audio is notably lacking. While blocks of different colors and sizes to all make specific tones, a lack of music makes it feel quite empty - particularly when it won’t let you play your own music.
Just let me play my own music, and this could be a real winner
Niaki is a great, free puzzle game that manages to evoke two amazing games while still creating something different. While it may feel a bit empty and sterile to focus all of your attention on, it’s a great distraction while you are meant to be doing other things.