(xblig) Totem – Me Likem Totem

Apr22According to  Merriam-Webster online a totem is “1) an object (as an animal or plant) serving as the emblem of a family or clan and often as a reminder of its ancestry, and is also a usually carved or painted representation of such an object and 2) one that serves as an emblem or revered symbol”.  Although the term is of Ojibwa (largest group of Native Americans north of Mexico) origin, totemistic beliefs are not limited to Native American Indians. Similar totemism-like beliefs have been historically present throughout much of the world, including Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Africa, Australia and the Arctic polar region.  A totem pole is a large sculpture carved out of a tree, and may include these totems as described above.  What does this have to do with our next XBLCG game?  It’s called Totem, of course!  According to the official description Totem is “Intense matching Totem destruction! Two game modes…survival and adventure complete with 28 levels and 4 elemental bosses.”  Let’s see if it stacks up to that definition.

TotemSS01Okay first let’s see how to play.  Your left trigger is to drop totem’s waiting at the top, presumably to build totem poles (or match them).  Right trigger to use the selected tool.  Use the bumpers to move your tool cursor.  To move the totem cursor you need to use left thumbstick or the D-pad.  To move your totem up, down, left or right when possible, you can use the four Xbox Controller buttons (A, B, X, Y), or the right thumb stick.  The start menu goes back to the main menu.  On the totem cursor green arrows indicate the direction in which you can move the totem block.  Only those on top of the tack can be moved left or right.  Damage is caused to like blocks in all directions when blocks collide.  Apparently it’s not limited to 3, although we shall see.  Any glowing objects are invincible, as they are bosses, to defeat them you must destroy the poles they’re sitting on.  They also take damage from any block broken immediately to the left or right of them, or when not glowing.  so I guess they’re not totally invincible, but now let’s see how this actually plays.

TotemSS02There are two modes, adventure or survival.  Presumably adventure is a story mode or maybe more aptly a level mode.  Survival would be just seeing how many totems you could break until losing.  I’ll pick adventure first.  There are three skill levels, given the controls seem a bit complex, I will try easy first.  Okay so first it’s showing me the high scores for some odd reason, and then of course the instructions, naturally.  Okay so basically there are three totem poles with two totems in each.  There are 3 at the top waiting to drop.  And you’re supposed to arrange them around so that when a totem drops on top it removes several connecting totems.  Sounds easy but I was at a lost at first.  Got in some combos before I knew what I was doing.  It kind of makes it tricky because you want to do something with the right thumb stick and you end up using the left or vice versa.  I used my “tool” accidentally, but all-in-all got through level 1.  I don’t know it’s still tricky.  Apparently after a totem pole is completely destroyed you can’t move your blocks over there.  At least it didn’t work for me.  All right, I think this is just a little too complex for a matching game.

TotemSS03The interface is rather tricky see, you can use both the left thumbstick and the d-pad, but sometimes you want to use the right thumbstick but end up hitting the dpad.  It doesn’t give you enough time at the top to arrange your pieces.  Some sort of visual aid telling you how much time you had left, might have been helpful.  Just too many controls, and a bit too awkward.  Personally I would have made sure you only used the left thumbstick to move your cursor, and maybe the triggers to swap them around.  And maybe the A button to drop.  You could use another button to use your “tool” but only one at a time.  It would have made it simpler, and thus more fun.  I could get into it more that way.  This seems like another one I wouldn’t really recommend, unless you’re good with complex controls.  Luckily it’s on the good side of the not-recommendation, while some games don’t have anything interesting going for them, this does, and actually it’s got more going for it than a decent match-3, however if they could have nailed the controls, I think it would have been pretty solid.


Alright what about the graphics.  The graphics are superb.  Great theming, and good use of alpha effects and particles.  The sounds are not annoying and work well to give you auditory feedback.  The music sound like some sort of Indian tribal drum beat or something and although it’s not something I would listen to for fun, it does work well with the whole totem pole theme.

Final Analysis:  Great idea, and the execution isn’t that bad, except the complexity of the controls make it not that fun for me, so I can’t really recommend it.  You can however try the trial for free on your Xbox and determine for yourself.  If you have any comments or complaints about this review after you have played it, feel free to leave a comment on the post.


Name: Totem

Developer: Fervent Interactive

Price: 200 MSP / $2.50 USD

Where you can get it: Xbox Live Community Games. on the Xbox 360

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