Batu Ta Batu (which means ‘Join and Join’ in Basque) is a 1-4 player tile-based puzzle game against the clock and/or each other. It has a unique control scheme and lives on its colourful displays. Whilst it doesn’t invent the wheel, it does what it does very well and will keep you amused long enough with its huge variety of modes to play.
The main game (Endless mode) places you in an ever-increasing grid of colours that is surrounded by pools of those colours on the four edges. Fundamentally, Batu Ta Batu wants you to merge tiles in the centre into the edges of the same colour. Everything in the centre playing area can be shifted around to create bigger blocks of the same colour so that when you shift them into the edge pools, you’ll score more points. So if you have a grid 9 blocks (3×3), you can shift the blocks around until you get a 3×3 grid of the same colour and then you can shift it into the pool you want for maximum points. In single-player mode, each level has a timer and a map and initial tile layout. You’ll need to cross a score threshold before the timer runs out to move to the next map and stay alive. Its a high score rush that will take a while to get used to. Why? The controls!
The first 20 minutes or so saw me utterly floundering in Batu Ta Batu because the controls felt quite alien to me. I played the PS4 version. You move around the board to select the block you want to move with the left stick and then you choose a symbol to shift the block in that direction e.g. X is down, O is right. You can only shift blocks that have a clear complete path to leap over so if you have blocks that are like L shapes, you can’t shift over them and you’ll have to go around it somehow. I’d keep shifting blocks the wrong way and making life difficult for myself.
The next control and gameplay complexity is that you need to shift the outer pools around as well and you to that with the trigger buttons on your controller. It takes a bit of practice to remember to shift pools as well as blocks and its a tactical juggling act that gets more tricky the more colours that are on the screen. As you rack up points, bombs are unlocked that you can throw to explode problematic blocks that block your way. These become vital from about level 4 or 5 onwards as I kept finding myself stuck.
Each time you play the game you are awarded coins that allow you to buy alternative modes. Puzzle modes allow you to think about how you can swap blocks to make as many or as few blocks of different colours as possible. I had just as much fun in that mode as I did in the main game! There were also other modes such as completely removing a certain colour for example and they all lean towards set puzzles that require a slower thought process rather than speed and panic like endless mode.
What is excellent is that every single game can be played 1-4 players in split screen mode. Some become a race to see who will solve the puzzle first. Endless mode adds a bit of direct competition and allows you to send ‘crappy batu’s’ (crap joins) over to your opponent to muck up their combos and plans. Endless is where the most fun is to be had but you’ll all need to have a grip on the controls first before playing because otherwise you’ll have players getting stroppy.
I did have a couple of interesting glitches that I hope will be patched out too. The tutorial wouldn’t stop playing until I unlocked my first other mode and I had a couple of sound glitches which were minor but it meant that the harsh splash sound of making a match would get stuck. I just muted the TV. Aside from that, this is an interesting colour matching game that stands out with its Latin art style and quirky controls. It won’t change your life but its a solid game that puzzle fans will enjoy score chasing with.
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