Invalid Tangram – Confucius say: ancient Chinese furniture make great puzzle.

Okay hope I didn’t offend anyone by the title (you never know who finds offense at mock broken English).  Seriously though the tangram started out as some furniture set that later materialized into a set of wooden blocks for playing.  No really!  Check out tangram on Wikipedia!  Basically the object of the puzzle is to form a specific shape using all seven pieces which may not overlap.  I think I played it once or twice, interesting puzzle.  What does this have to do with our next game?

InvalidTangramSS01 Well our next game just happens to be called “Invalid Tangram” by Josh Szepietowski.  I don’t really know what’s invalid about it though, maybe the bad guys are “invalid” tangrams.  Maybe your ship is, but who knows.  I do know this is a very interesting mix of match-3 and vertical scrolling shooter.  Well in actuality you can match two it doesn’t just have to be three.  Josh made this at the Guildhall at SMU.  Essentially a game development program at Southern Methodist University which is in Dallas, Texas.  As is stated on his homepage — Invalid Tangram has been chosen as 1 of 10 Student Showcase Finalists out of more then 100 entrants in the 2007 Independent Games Festival.  Invalid Tangram was one of four programmer games picked to be shown at The Guildhall 2005 Winter Exhibition.  — Impressive, most impressive.

Your mission, Jim, should you choose to accept it, is to destroy all the “invalid tangrams” with your ship the Valid Tangram.  Actually I’m just kidding about that last part.  It’s a shooter in the sense that it’s vertical and you have to shoot these tangram ships.  It’s a puzzle game because the way you derive your power-ups is via the blocks the dead ships drop.  They drop these blocks and you have to hover over them and hit your absorb button, to absorb the energy.  You can get different kinds of power-ups depending on how many blocks you clear and what color.  It’s really pretty novel and fun.

InvalidTangramSS02 There’s only two buttons one for firing one for absorbing, the arrows for moving.  That’s as simple as you can get for a shooter really.  Well I suppose you could just forget about the absorb button for a really simple shooter, but still, few games are much easier than this.  The score is at the top left, and a timer at the top right which I believe is for the current power-up.  Once you’ve absorbed some blocks of a certain color, you have a timer (shown as a meter beside your score), to wait for before absorbing that same color again.

Graphics are somewhat a mixed bag.  Adequate and slightly odd.  I wouldn’t characterize them as great graphics.  They are highly stylized though.  I think the developer wanted a slightly retro-styled game.  Considering he was mixing both match-3 with shooter though, I don’t see how he could have made the graphics more-realistic.  The graphics then, wouldn’t mesh as well as they do when they’re styled like this.  The sound and music is retroish.  The music in particular sounds like a form of chip music.

InvalidTangramSS03 Final Analysis:  Very original way of combining two genres you would normally not think of putting together.  It’s fun and a little odd.

Name: Invalid Tangram

Developer: Josh Szepietowski

Price: Free (yay!)

Where you can get it: Here on the Invalid Tangram page.

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One Response to “Invalid Tangram – Confucius say: ancient Chinese furniture make great puzzle.”

  1. Uhfgood says:

    The other day I got an email from the author of this game, Josh, who explained just exactly what the “Invalid Tangram” is, here is the reprint of the email with his permission:

    Hi, Thanks for reviewing Invalid Tangram. I am Josh, the author. I always love when google alerts me of something like this, makes my day ^^

    Anyway, to help clear up a few things from the review. First, the title.A tangram, as in your wiki link, is a puzzle made up from some specific shapes cut out of a square. You can’t just cut up a square into any shapes, it is a specific set of shapes. All of the enemies (and the things in the background) are tangrams.. This is why when killed the enemies turn into squares (reverting to the ‘natural’ form, since tangram shapes are cut from a square).

    The player is not. Actually the player is made out of shapes which were derived from a square (fun puzzle is to try to rearrange the player back into a square), but these are not the specific shapes so actually it is the player who is the Invalid Tangram.

    Nerdy backstory right? Well it gets better.

    The countdown timer in the top right is not your current powerup, but rather a ‘life counter’ (I was inspired pretty heavily by Warning Forever in this). If you do nothing you eventually die from time-out. If an enemy hits you it deducts additional time from your life. If you absorb a large enough group (3 or more) it adds a little bit of life to extend your play.

    The story behind this is that you, the Invalid Tangram, appear suddenly in a universe inhabited only by tangrams. It is impossible to live here since the very fabsic of space repells you (the timer counts down). Tangrams rally to try and remove your imperfect form from their perfectly homogeneous world. You are the thing that should not be. You did not choose to exist, but there you are. For a brief period of time you are alive, but your entire life is over in a short violent struggle.

    So it is really a commentary about prejudice, about racism, about fitting in, and about failing. There are some people in this world who are in situations where they simply do not belong and despite all their struggles time will tick away, they will be cast out, and soon forgotten.

    And it is morally unclear if you are the good or bad in this picture: while it seems as if you are only acting in self defense against the tangrams it is clear you are doomed. So rather than quitely allowing yourself to be removed peacefully you are actually trying to take as much out on your way out as you can. Did those Tangrams deserve to die? Was it only natural, nay, instinctual that they were attacking you much as our bodies attack a disease? You see the Invalid Tangram is humanity; we are the disease.

    Or maybe it is just a nerdy theme for a fun little arcade shooter inspired heavily by Kenta Cho’s work and Warning Forever? :)

    Suffice it to say, now we know, and as was always stated in the GI Joe cartoon of our youths “Knowing is half the battle.”

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