Developer: Tiny Touch Tales
Size: 157 MB
Platform: iPhone & iPad
Arnold Rauers, otherwise known as Tiny Touch Tales, is something of an unsung App Store hero. Card Crawl, Miracle Merchant and Card Thief offer three inspired twists on the Solitaire format, while ENYO is a minor roguelike strategy masterpiece.
It’s possible to look on the latest Rauers effort, Maze Machina, as an amalgam of all these elements, with a little Threes! magic stirred through for good measure.
In each round you must swipe to move your little mouse warrior around a 4×4 grid, collecting a golden key before making your way to the exit square. The only trouble is, you have to contend with a handful of mechanical enemies clanking around the grid at the same time.
Indeed, everything on the game grid shuffles in the direction of your swipe, much like in the aforementioned Threes. You’ll typically need to trap an enemy up against the side of the grid if you’re to attack them.
There are no cards to play in Maze Machina, and no character (including your mouse) possesses any inherent abilities. Rather, the 16 tiles of the game grid each grant a random weapon or power to whoever is stood on them at the time.
Some of those abilities (like the sword) require you to trap your opponent against the edge before initiating an attack. Others (like the dagger) do not. Still other items will transport you across the grid, swap your position with an adjacent opponent, or pull an item towards you.
Maze Machina is about space management and careful positioning rather than aggressive attacks. With a limited stamina bar (rechargeable by the occasional cheese chunk), it’s imperative that you get to the level exit as quickly and efficiently as possible.
There are several different modes that riff off this core ruleset. Draft mode asks you to pick a rule modifier every time you consume food, for example, while Limit mode gives you a limited number of turns in which to complete the game.
But even in Normal mode you’ll struggle to reach the 15th and final level. This is an exacting game that belies its simple mechanics and adorable presentation with a solid strategic core.
Talking of presentation, the usual Tiny Touch Tales attention to detail is firmly on display here. We love the way your hooded rodent hero gets visibly tired as his stamina lowers, and the way bits break off your robotic overlord as you make progress through his dastardly clockwork experiment.
It all speaks to a singular developer at the very top of their game.
- Intuitive swipe-based controls
- Clever strategy-puzzle mechanics
- Charming presentation
- Can be very punishing
- Not a lot of variation
- There's a dose of luck to any run