Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2009-01-17 Nintendo DS Puzzle E10 (Everyone 10+) Engine Software / RealNetworks

Since the DS's release, the platform has become a proverbial breeding ground for casual arcade or puzzle games that offer tiny variations and new paint schemes that set them apart from their competitors. And while some may feel that the DS already has enough puzzle or casual games to last its lifetime, many developers would disagree, and continue to release such games in their quest to make a name for themselves amongst the masses.

Tropix's main variation on the standard system is the fact that instead of offering one simple puzzle game and calling it a day, it instead consists of eleven games spread throughout the casual gaming genre in a convenient pick-up-and-play package.

Based in a variety of island getaways, Tropix at first offers players only a portion of its total eleven games as gameplay options. In order to unlock the rest of the games, you must earn enough sand dollars (by playing the games that are available to you) to buy various items pertaining to the food, fun, and comfort stats of the island creatures who share your tropical paradise.

After all three island stats have been filled, a new game is unlocked. You are allowed to transfer your creatures to other islands (which also must be purchased), allowing you to start the stat filling process all over again, eventually resulting in you having all eleven games at your disposal.

This unnecessary and even a bit frustrating unlocking system aside, Tropix's eleven games are spread throughout a variety of genres. Coco Bowl, for instance, is (as the name suggests) a bowling game that has you sending your coconut bowling ball down the lane to a group of empty bottles via a flinging motion of the stylus on the touch screen, while Parasail has you controlling a parasailing monkey in side-scrolling levels by dragging you stylus in the direction you wish for him to move.

Both of these games are about as creative as the title becomes, but their ambition actually causes them to suffer from the DS's dreaded "hand over the screen" phenomenon, which greatly hinders gameplay, as your stylus controlling hand literally covers the entire screen as you try to play.

The majority of the other options greatly resemble (or are even undeniable clones of) various online games found on sites like Pogo or MSN Games. Puffer Popper is a clone of Luxor, Cascade is a twist on Bejeweled that has gems falling in diagonal patterns instead of horizontal/vertical ones, Sandoku is Sudoku, and Trijong is a variation of Mahjong with triangular tiles, instead of square ones. There is even a basic Solitaire options for those who are interested in taking a trip down casual gaming memory lane.

While the variety of games with Tropix is appreciated, in that it creates a sort of "buy one get 10 free" scenario, nothing about the game is completely original, and can be found in better versions of games that have been on the market for years (and therefore at cheaper prices). This is especially true technically speaking.

While the gameplay backgrounds and island locations are quite visually pleasing, with lovely sunsets or calming starry skies, the foregrounds suffer from a mostly pixilated look that is especially annoying in games like Trijong, which contain so many pieces on screen, that it can be hard to distinguish where one tile ends and the next begins. Likewise, Trijong also suffers from considerable lag when rapidly matching tile pairs, as a short animation plays at the completion of each.

The game's overall theme of mediocrity continues into the sound department with a clich??d soundtrack that does little to enhance the gameplay experience, which is in fact, more enjoyable in silence, as many offer more sand dollars for a quicker completion, and with silenced comes a renewed concentration.

Overall, it's not that Tropix is a bad game; it's just that it's not particularly noteworthy either. While receiving eleven games in one package is a nice touch, everything about the title screams of repetition and mechanics that we've all seen time and time again. For those who are downright desperate for another version of Mahjong or Luxor to slam into their DS, I suppose Tropix is worth a look, but for the technical quality, you are probably better off playing the online versions for free.

Specal thanks to Tiffany Dunning and RealNetworks for providing a copy of this title.