[Review] TENS! – Nintendo Switch

  • Developer: Kwalee
  • Publisher: Kwalee
  • Release date: 03/12/2020
  • Price: £13.49 / $14.99
  • Review code provided by Kwalee

Introducing: TENS! Switch Review

I’ve made no secret of my love for puzzle games. Most of the time when I say that I like puzzle games, people think that I like games where you have to solve word puzzles, logic puzzles, or other point and click type things. While I do love things like that, I’m also a big fan of much simpler types of puzzling. In fact, a lot of the types of puzzle games I like are things that you might play on your phone, such as 1048 or TENS! So, when I had the chance to bring TENS! to my Switch, of course I was going to give it a look!

Counting up

In most cases, puzzle games don’t have a story to them. There are exceptions, of course, but in most cases where it’s not a point and click adventure, there’s not really anything to work with. There is a story mode in TENS!, but it’s pretty paper thin. It’s actually centered around the game in question too. You select if you’re playing as a little boy or girl and then your chosen character is off on an adventure to challenge the princess to a battle of Tens! and prove themselves to be the best Tens! player.

It’s paper thin, but this is one of those games where the story isn’t exactly the main focus that you need to be considering. Gameplay is king in a game like this so I’m not going to knock the game for not having a super strong story presence. The single player adventure does see you moving through the world and challenging others, but if you’re looking for something deep and immersive, then you’re not going to find it here. There aren’t even simplistic visual novel style story scenes, just images of characters above certain spots on the board and a single line of character dialog at the top of the screen. It’s the barest of bones.

Counting Down

However, when gameplay is king, that gameplay had better be golden! And I have to say that TENS! is pretty dang good. There’s no perfect comparison to be made, but it’s a lot like a combination of Tetris and Sudoku. You will have a 5 by 5 grid and be able to place dice onto it. These dice may come in a pair, L-shaped triple, or even just a single lone die. Each will have a number rolled on them and it’s your job to rotate and place them in a grid in order to make the line either across or up and down come out to be ten exactly. It can’t be a number over ten or under, but it must be exactly ten. When you get that ten, the line clears and you get a point for each dice that was in the row (including the occasional completely blank dice which counts as zero). 

The game becomes a matter of carefully placing your dice to make sure you’re able to get to ten with what you have, while not filling your board to the point that you’re not going to be able to place any more of them (which is the game over state). Once you get a handle on how things work, there’s more too it, such as clearing multiple lines at the same time, or combos which trigger from one line clearing causing another to go into being exactly ten as well. When you manage to get these types of clears the game is incredibly satisfying. It’s that right kind of active puzzling that makes for something easy to pick up and play for a few minutes a day, just to get your brain going for a little bit, much like the Tetris and Sudoku that it is descended from.

Un Deux Trois

There is one thing that is a little glaring. This game is available for free from the same developers on mobile phones right now. Well, it’s not exactly the same. The mobile version is essentially the endless mode that this Switch version also has packed into it. However, the mobile version is riddled with ads and microtransactions that justify the fact that it is free, like so many free games on mobile these days. It does make for a great demo if you’re considering picking this up for your Switch though, so I’m happy to have it out there and available for those who might be curious.

So what does the Switch version have over the mobile version. Well, the single player adventure mode is the biggest addition. When playing single player, the goal is not to go on endlessly, rather just until you reach a certain point threshold, which is great for if you’re looking for a shorter version of the game with a clear endpoint in mind. These rounds don’t take very long on the lower end of the point spectrum, but once you get deep in, they start getting to be a little more of the endurance test that the endless mode serves as. While there is this sort of level based gameplay in the mobile version, there’s no artwork or themed areas, so if that’s something you really must have to carry you through a basic puzzler, you may prefer the Switch version. There is the ability to unlock different dice which you can use while playing as a visual treat, most of which were gained by microtransactions in the mobile version. (You’ll notice most of the screenshots use simple numbers on the dice. I found this to be much easier to comprehend.)

There’s also multiplayer to be found here. This is an extension of the versus battle levels that can be found in the main campaign where you must clear lines of tens in order to prevent your spaces from being blocked while also trying to block the spaces of your opponent, much like the way that garbage rows or slots build up in a game like Tetris of Puyo Puyo. It’s a decently fun time, but I don’t see it becoming something that I am going to sit down and play a lot with other people like I would a co-op game or something like Mario Kart. It’s also only local multiplayer, so don’t go in expecting some kind of online battles or ranking.

Clearing Out

The visual design that is on display here is pretty cute, with a sort of paper cut out look and lots of bright colors for the single player world. I thought the character designs were cute and all, but given that the designs didn’t have much of a personality to back them up, I don’t know for how long they’re going to stick with me. The design of the game stages themselves is pretty simplistic. Which is actually what you need for a game like this since you don’t want there to be any unneeded distractions. The unlockable dice designs were also really nice, but as someone who preferred the dice with simple numbers instead of the dice pattern, I found myself wishing that was a setting I could just toggle for any of the pretty dice options available to me.

Music isn’t really anything to write home about here, just pretty generic pieces that get repeated while you play. It’s for that reason that I ended up muting the game for a lot of the time that I was playing in handheld. Honestly, this is one of those games that you don’t need sound to play at all so I found it perfect for playing while passively watching something on tv or listening to an audiobook. It’s engaging, but on that level where you can still listen to something else going on while you’re playing.

Is it a 10/10

Overall, I like TENS! but I don’t begrudge anyone who balks at the high price tag, especially when you can get your basic needs for gameplay met through the free version on your phone. The gameplay is fun, but there is only so much value added and it’s going to be up to each person as to if they really feel the need to buy it on their switch instead of just playing on a device that most are already likely to have in their pocket anyway.

Pros

  • Fun and easily understood gameplay
  • Works great for short bursts of fun

Cons

  • Available free on phones
  • Added features will not justify the price for many
  • Grows bland and repetitive in long sessions

Verdict

While TENS! is a fun time, you may not feel the need for the additions which justify the cost.

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