Puzzle games aren’t for everyone, but very few games tap into that feeling of immediate elation the same way a good puzzler does. There’s something incredibly satisfying about starting a puzzle and having it finished within a few minutes, where all you think about is the challenge set before you, and nothing else. Video games enable escapism better than any other medium. Yet somehow, a simple puzzle game like TENS! can often be all consuming, even more so than the steep mountains and vast plains of an open world game.
TENS! is very simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a challenge. The puzzles are presented on a 5 x 5 grid, with 3 sets of dice on the side. You have to place these dice onto the grid while trying to make the rows add up to exactly ten. Once you hit ten, the row clears, creating more room. As you choose what dice you want, they will get replaced on the side until you complete the level, similar to games like Tetris. However, it goes without saying that the further you progress the more challenging the game becomes, with some of the squares on the grid taking on new properties or being blocked out. For example one of the squares can have a randomiser on it, meaning whatever you put down can change into a different number. It could change into exactly what you need or, most likely, cause you to have to re-think.
The way the game is laid out is also incredibly simple. You will start with adventure mode until you unlock the endless mode in which you just play until you lose. In adventure mode, the puzzles are laid out on a path for you to move along gradually, beating each of the puzzles that come your way. Each level is ranked out of three stars when you finish. Naturally, if you’re a completionist, then three stars are what you will be aiming for. It’s very easy early on to get through the levels by just clearing lines, but as the game continues it becomes very clear the only way to keep going is through completing multipliers. Multipliers are achieved when you clear more than one line in a single move, and these are crucial to getting the three stars later on. TENS! also has unlockables that you pick up through playing the game, like different dice as well as different player icons. But for the most part, they’re largely irrelevant.
Adventure mode also has head-to-head battles with the AI. These are different as they rely on you not only reaching the score before whoever you’re up against does, but also blocking out parts of their grid when clearing blocks. This works both ways, so if you’re not quick with your decisions it can catch up with you. The head-to-heads are incredibly exciting, making you rush and giving you no time to second guess.
The head-to-heads are also the basis of the multiplayer option. This provides the opportunity to take on one of your pals, but only as long as you’re with them in person. Sadly, there is no online component. Online play, especially this year, is so important, and it’s a huge shame that you can’t take TENS! online. The foundations are already in place for multiplayer, with a format expertly suited to taking it online, making it’s omission all the more egregious.
Despite lacking online multiplayer, TENS! feels like a complete package that will certainly fulfill your puzzling needs, dragging you back for more so you can grind for the three stars on each level. Not only is TENS! a perfect game to lose yourself in, but it’s also ideal for smaller, quicker sessions. If you have just 10-15 minutes to burn, then TENS! Will certainly do the trick.