Totemo Hands-On Preview

What? Another Match-3 puzzle game on the App Store? Get right out of town, sir! That was our initial reaction to Totemo, a forthcoming puzzler from Hexage. But after putting the game through its paces, we found that it’s not just another mindless rehash of an existing game. In fact, it carves a new path through the well-trodden Match-3 territory and puts on a lot of polish as well.

In each of the 68 stages, you’ll find a formation of “spirits,” which look like adorable big-eyed morose shapes. Early in the game, you tap two spirits in a row (up and down or left and right; not diagonal), and both disappear. Your job is to clear the board of spirits, sending them all to “a better place.” This can be a simple task or a difficult one, depending on how the spirits are aligned onscreen.

To make things more complex as you advance, you’re soon required to tap three spirits in a row to make them disappear. And then star-shaped spirits are added to the mix that, when tapped, count as two regular spirits. These new elements build on the core gameplay and keep things interesting.

New gameplay mechanics are explained by a character that somehow manages to be both cute and creepy at the same time. As text appears in his word bubbles, he makes grunting noises similar to the sounds the Sims make, but stranger. The art style of the game is very polished and appealing.

The story mode progresses at a leisurely pace and is accompanied by a chilled-out soundtrack. For those looking for something a little more tense, there’s a survival mode, which has you solve as many puzzles as you can within a time limit. Online leaderboards round out the package.

If you’re into puzzle games, look for Totemo to hit the App Store soon.