Twibik is the latest abstract puzzler from the man with the plan, Tonypa. The game takes the tried and true matching mechanic we've all grown to love/be-addicted-to and gives it a fresh spin. You must get rid of tiles by matching similar ones sharing a row or column, causing them to vanish. Your options tend to vanish as well; like all Tony Pa games there is a trove of challenge lying underneath the simple exterior.
You're greeted with a grid filled with tiles, five across and eight tall. There are many shapes on the tiles, color coded across six hues for your convenience. You simply click on one, then click on a matching tile in the same row or column, causing them and every tile in between to disappear. Your goal is to vanish a certain number of combos in every level, but as the levels go on the number of tiles and the number of combos required increases, making it more likely that you'll run out of moves. When you do, you can use three lifelines, like Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? but geometric. Like the lifelines in that game show, they're generally not very helpful, so success comes with managing the possible matches and trying to harvest as many as possible, while clearing the room for more tiles to fall.
Analysis: Twibik has something going on, the right balance of cognitive complexity and self-paced trance that makes a puzzle game great and distinct. However, it suffers from a difficulty curve that resembles a half-finished half-pipe. Things start off great, mechanics are implied, helped along by just a bit of text, and the first five or six levels scale in complexity quite nicely. However, each new piece adds an exponential amount of complexity to the management, multiplying the odds that you'll get a stack that is untreatable, trapping you in inevitable doom. Chain Factor had a similar problem with its randomly generated and indestructible 1's — anytime you have a negative feedback loop on options in a puzzle game, the flow turns to suffocating cement. This game feels like it's one mechanic away from beautiful balance, and there are lots of options. Limited use of diagonal matching, limited use of similar color or similar shape matching, bombs, row clearing, tile-avalanche summoning. You could even have these options as replacements for the relatively flaccid lifelines currently available, which tend to give you a weak chance of redemption, and sometimes leave you with no additional options.
Tonypa is surely a ludonomic genius, and Twibik is a pearl of his continuing evolution.