Tile Driver PC Review
Tile Driver is the first game made for both PC and as an Xbox Live Indie Game by the tiny British company Independent Dreams. It’s a puzzle game in the legacy of Pipe Mania, but with cars and a road-rules philosophy that says stick to the path or you’ll explode in horrible flames. It’s overall a fairly standard set of rules to play by: move the tiles about to make a safe path for the car to travel as a clock counts down, then watch as the car spontaneously combusts almost instantly because of how hard this game is.
I’m convinced Tile Driver is some sort of experiment to see how many seconds it takes for me to start sobbing all over this grid of car .GIFs. Independent Dreams must have managed to make some kind of ultramodern system of trephining drills and paper cups to extract from my brain everything that would make me capable to play this game. The difficulty settings baffle me. In the game’s favour I’m glad they implemented these settings at all. But it’s a false sense of security when the game’s difficulty directly relates to how much time they leave on the clock for you to shift tiles in the right order, and the ratio between how many tiles and how long you have to fiddle with them remains the same no matter what difficulty you’re even at.
Even on its Easy Arcade-Mode setting, trying to reorder an 11×11 grid of tiles in 90 seconds to create a passable car journey through a sleepy, nameless English suburb has about the same level of stress as trying to diffuse a bomb in the backseat while some Middlesbrough kids are breaking into your Toyota. Road tiles are scattered throughout the grid and you must sift through them using your arrow keys then attempting to herd the tile you want to its respective place by displacing all of the tiles around it, in what amounts to trying to play field hockey with a knitting needle. As far as controls go this is surprisingly tricky to get used to, especially when up against a clock. The countdown clock ranges from 90 seconds to 45 and then to 15, depending on the difficulty. The harder the difficulty the fewer the tiles, the less time you have ticking down on the countdown clock, and the more ‘specialty’ tiles which offer traffic symbols and force your car to speed up or back-pedal in the opposite direction and explode. However even when the car begins to follow the path you’ve created for it you are able to continue fiddling with tiles. This is an incredible windfall overall. What doesn’t help is that there is no actual way to pause mid-game, because the pause button they give you only stops the time, then inexplicably forces your car to start puttering forward into a head-on collision with a bit of exploding road.
However Tile Driver has a number of features that could be genuinely fun if it were polished up a bit. The game offers two different game modes: an endless Arcade mode and a 60-level Mission mode. Both of these are fairly identical, although the latter mode lets you ride through a map of the UK, choosing areas to play the puzzles in like a geographic system of levels, and features unlockable items. I actually really like the idea of a mission mode, and it would have been an especially impressive feature if it involved actual proper missions rather than simply being Arcade mode with a map of England.
On a visual level the game is pretty straight forward. With 60 different areas to play through in Mission mode there’s no real way to differentiate Hexham from London because all grids look nigh identical. Arcade mode also offers three interchangeable backgrounds for reasons unknown, ranging from City to Farm to “American” that are functional and to the point.
You see a strange combination of game design practices here: a standard puzzle game combined with the kind of old school philosophy that once pitted the designer against the player. Tile Driver is similar to this old arcade era of gaming where designers would try to outwit the player instead of providing casual entertainment, to measure the player’s skill. These would traditionally make it hard for players to survive in-game, forcing them to replay and keeping the coins coming into the coin box. But in a simple Pipe Mania style game this just gets incredibly frustrating and ends up feeling more like a strange suburban variation of the brutal arcade game Sinistar. If you like gruellingly difficult puzzle games then I highly recommend you check this game out at only £2.99 £0.99. Tile Driver has all of the right ideas, but it’s not for you if you’re looking for an easy pick-up-and-play puzzle game.