Tilelander feels kind of like an old style arcade game. The vestigial background story is that I'm saving my home world of Tileland from the invaders of the evil Xyzom empire. "Great! Defend the world from the Xyzom bad guys," you might think to yourself. "Where's my army? Bring it on!"
Not so fast. There's no army to speak of. My ship, such as it is, is a little plus sign. For firearms, there are sometimes little tiles on the playing field with what looks like a picture of a little spaceship on them. I steer my ship over those tiles to shoot in that direction. I don't get to adjust my aim or move my little weapon — I just get to shoot in a straight line and hope the enemy ship flies into my line of fire.
Tileland is a world of little tiles. They can be glass (really fragile), green (slightly less fragile), brick (a bit tougher) and steel (impervious to all). Each level has a different arrangement of bricks. Sometimes the bricks are just in a pattern, and sometimes they're laid out to make a little picture or building shape. One level is laid out with green tiles, making up the continents of the Earth, and the playing field is so big you'll be scrolling from one side to the next. Another level is laid out like the starting line of a little race course. Each level definitely has its own look.
Using the mouse, I steer my ship (little plus sign) over an existing brick. As I guide my ship, it makes a line of bricks of whatever color I just steered over. My objective is to enclose the entire screen in bricks. As I draw my outline, if I make a closed shape, the entire shape will be filled with the matching color of brick. I highly recommend you not make your shapes with glass bricks if at all possible. The other bricks are destroyed one at a time by the baddies. If you use glass bricks, when they destroy one, every other glass brick touching it is destroyed at the same time. It can set off quite the chain reaction.
By itself, filling the screen with bricks would be a fairly simple operation. Cue the Xyzom baddies. Their ships (I use the term loosely) will move around the screen. They will try to shoot me and try to destroy the tiles of Tileland. To stop these ships, I can try to shoot them — really a hit or miss operation — or I can draw a little line of bricks around them. If I make a closed shape around the enemy, when the bricks fill in, their ship is destroyed. Go us!
In a nutshell, that's the basic game of Tilelander. As you progress through the 60+ levels, the game does gain in complexity. I get more steel tiles that I can't move across. Sometimes I have to collect a tile with a key to open up another area of the screen. The enemy ships start moving a bit faster, and they get a bit harder to kill. If they shoot through my line of tiles fast enough, it gets tricky trying to enclose them. Along with dodging the ships and anything they might shoot, sometimes little dots of light shoot at me from the edge of the screen — I suppose to keep me on my toes.
I didn't get super far in Tilelander, so I don't know what it looks like past level 14 or so. It's very like an old style arcade game with just three lives to begin with. Sometimes there's a tile with a little heart on it for getting an extra life, and if I earn enough points, I can get an extra life, but that hasn't been enough to overcome my lack of skill in this area. There are actually four levels of gameplay in Tilelander: Easy, Normal, Hard and Arcade. I'm playing on Easy, and it's still getting the best of me.
Tilelander is definitely different than the other casual games I play. If you're looking for a challenge that will test your fine motor skills and planning ability, and you want to avoid the latest match-three clones, give Tilelander a look.