I had a strange time while reviewing Tactic Explode. I initially played against the computer, and found that unless I played perfectly, all the matches would turn into battles of attrition that the CPU opponent would inevitably win. The game seemed enjoyable, but frustrating. I am usually pretty good at tactical games of this nature, so to keep getting beaten by the computer, even on the ‘easy’ setting, was baffling.
It is lucky that this game has a multiplayer mode then, as that is when Tactic Explode really starts to shine, and proves its worth as a tactical board game.
It is a turn based game, with a board full of pieces that are coloured the same as the maximum four players, and the aim of the game is to dominate and turn all the pieces on the board into your colour. Each piece has a number on it from 1 to 4, and each time you use up a turn to touch a piece, the number rises by one. You can only touch pieces that are owned by you, and touching a piece with a 4 on it will cause it to explode, turning all adjacent pieces into your colour, and the 4 to revert to a 1. This is how you turn other player’s pieces to your side, and in a nice tactical twist, if there are any other pieces with 4 on them adjacent in either a horizontal or vertical position, there will be a chain reaction, potentially turning many enemy pieces to your side.
That is the long and the short of it, and in single player, the difficulty, even on the lower levels, is too high. Too often do you spend ages pegging back your opponent, only to see the CPU produce an amazing move that returns half of the board to him. This isn’t helped by the total lack of a tutorial, or even instructions on how to play. Yes, there are instructions in the App Store listing, but there really should be something within the app to help players, such as a small tutorial board, or at the very least a help page.
Another thing that would really help with the fluidity of the game would be the option of holding down your finger on a piece and seeing the effect it would have on the board if you cause it to explode. So, touching and holding down on a 4 would highlight in red, perhaps, which pieces would be changed, including any potential chain reactions. If this might upset hardcore players, it could always be switched off as an option. The unpredictable nature of the chain reactions would be reduced a lot.
The multiplayer is where Tactic Explode is really good, however. Turn based pass and play is offered for up to 4 players, as well as local, 2 player Bluetooth play- a great addition. The game really comes into its own here, as playing against mistake prone human players is much more enjoyable, and even makes it fun when your opponent does ruin your plans with one lucky shot.
The tactical element really comes alive in the excellent Bluetooth mode, with the ebb and flow of a game easily visible without having to give up the device to your opponents. It is also here that the option of choosing from four starting formations really makes sense.
The graphics are very simple, although the explosions are decent, and the music is nice for a while, but soon gets repetitive, although there is the option to switch it off.
Overall, I am in two minds about Tactic Explode. On the one hand, it is a really frustrating single player experience, but on the other it is really good fun in multiplayer. If the A.I. of the computer could be toned down on the easier settings, and some of my suggestions could be implemented, then the single player mode would improve drastically. As it is, I can’t recommend this too much if you are going to be playing alone, but if you have someone to play against on a regular basis then this becomes a far more attractive proposition, especially with four players, or two over Bluetooth, where it is a multiplayer tactical blast.