Updated: To-Fu: The Trials of Chi Review

To-Fu: The Trials of Chi has just received an update that does a couple of things. First, they’ve added Game Center achievements, which is always nice to see on a game we love like this one. The achievements backwards compatible, too, so if you’ve already done the necessary work to trigger an achievement, you’ll get it just by downloading the update and opening the app.

But the more important update is that they’ve shortened To-Fu’s death animation and made it possible to skip it altogether by tapping the screen. This means that when you’re playing a tough level that has you dying constantly, you can restart the level without missing a beat. If you haven’t played the game this might not sound like a big deal, but every microsecond counts when you’re deep in a state of gamer zen and you know you can make that tough jump if you could just try it again right now.

These update are much appreciated, but they’ll probably leave fans of the game wondering when we’ll get more levels. There’s no word on that yet, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

To-Fu: The Trials of Chi is one of those games, like Angry Birds or Cut the Rope, that’s overflowing with personality and creativity. It’s about an adorable cube of tofu named To-Fu. This little soy product can’t walk or run, but he sticks to surfaces, and he can be flung like a rubber band. All you do in To-Fu: The Trials of Chi is stretch the little bugger, aim him where you want him to go, and let him fly. What pushes this game into the stratosphere of addictive fun is the level design.

Each of the 100 levels (that’s a ton of content, by the way) is a tightly constructed obstacle course filled with things that can tear apart a fragile hunk of tofu. Early on, all you have to deal with are spikes and moving platforms, but as you progress new elements are added steadily. Soon you’ll be dealing with laser beams, conveyor belts, portals, switches, and various surfaces that affect To-Fu in different ways. He slides down glass, for instance, but he bounces off metal.

In each level you have three goals. One is simply to reach the end, by touching the pink glowing fortune cookie located somewhere in the level. The next is to collect all of the floating blue orbs, which are generally laid out in a way that leads you to the fortune cookie. The last goal is to hit the end of each level using a limited number of jumps. In most levels it’s impossible to achieve all of these goals in a single run-through, which means there’s a good deal of replay value here for anyone who likes this game as much as we did (or anyone with OCD).

Don’t forget to stretch.

As you continue on, the levels become more challenging at a smooth clip. Later in the game, your tofu-flinging skills will be tested in remarkable– and sometimes frustrating– ways. It starts to feel like Super Meat Boy toward the end: death is everywhere, and to succeed you have to make very precise jumps under extremely tense circumstances.

Which leads us to our first complaint about the game: precision aiming is tough. When you pull To-Fu taut and let him go, he flies in a straight line. But because your finger is thicker than a pinpoint, it’s difficult to predict exactly on which pixels he’ll land. Unfortunately, pixel-perfect gameplay is required to meet the challenges in later levels. On level 39, for instance, all you need to do is make To-Fu jump in straight lines 11 times, and you’ll beat the level. This should be a cinch but, using meaty human fingers, it’s extremely tough. This isn’t a game-breaking problem, but it definitely becomes frustrating.

A more minor problem is the camera. You can drag it around the level to see the environment, but you can’t manually zoom out. The becomes a problem when you have to leap to a platform that’s offscreen. It would be nice if, like in Angry Birds, you could play from a zoomed-out vantage point. Again, this isn’t a game-breaking flaw, but it’s something that we’d like to see addressed in an update.

But overall, the quality of the level design and the adorability of To-Fu squash any issues we have with the game. This is an extremely polished platformer that adds enough gameplay elements and challenge as you progress that it never becomes dull or repetitive. To-Fu is one food that it’s okay to play with.

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