Some--in fact, an entire underground community--will argue that Tetris is a "hardcore" puzzle game. But it's only a small sect of players that has made it so, forming tournaments around it and even its own idols. This writer has yet to come across a puzzler that felt "hardcore" at first touch, as if it were intended for the game to earn the label. That was before Ketzal's Corridors.
Developed by KeysFactory and published by Nintendo on the 3DS eShop ($6.99), Ketzal's Corridors is likely the most challenging puzzle game you'll play for a very, very long time. That said, it's also one of the most rewarding for your efforts--and by "efforts" we mean retrying the game's 96 single-player levels over and over (and over) again to get every last gold coin. (In this day and age, we call this "The Angry Birds Effect.")
Like most puzzle games, the story in Ketzal's Corridors is cute and endearing, but it ultimately doesn't matter. The fact that the game tries to hammer this story about puzzle pieces with spirits in them trying to revive some ancient god king by flying through tunnels gets annoying quick. But without the story, Ketzal's Corridors wouldn't have its ancient South American theme, which allows for a brilliant visual aesthetic, soundtrack and puzzle pieces that oddly pack character.
Back to why Ketzal's Corridors is the most "hardcore" puzzle game this writer has ever played: the control concept. Each level in this puzzler leads players down a winding tunnel through various walls. However, each wall has a unique hole in it shaped to fit the puzzle piece you're currently playing with, which changes with each new world you visit on the game map. For instance, the first puzzle piece you learn to play with is a blue, S-shaped piece. But remember, this is a 3DS game.
Since players constantly navigate a 3D space, they must also learn how to move each puzzle piece in all directions--and fast. That's done using the 3DS face buttons: The "A" and "Y" buttons spin the puzzle piece on its axis left and right, the "B" and "X" buttons spin the piece on its axis forward and backward and finally the "R" trigger rotates the entire piece to the right. KeysFactory makes an honest effort in teaching the player these complex controls, but it's ultimately a trial by fire.
As if the game's controls didn't present a steep enough learning curve, each tunnel in Ketzal's Corridors contains hearts, which ultimately contribute to getting the highest scores and the coveted gold coins. So while you're fiddling with the game's controls just to make sure the piece fits through each wall like a savant's shapes box, you're also racing to make sure your piece passes through every heart--and not every heart is immediately adjacent to the other.
As you play through Ketzal's (early) Corridors, you'll learn that in order to pick up every heart per level, you must line up your puzzle piece with the location of each heart before passing through the wall safely. Plus, if you fail to pass through each wall safely in time, it's time to start over. Imagine the frustration of reaching the final wall in a level only to fail for trying to nab three or more hearts at once.
Here's the icing on the cake: Almost every level in this puzzler is timed. In fact, the "L" trigger acts as a speed boost so that you can keep pace with the ticking clock. Ketzal's Corridors is a "hardcore" puzzle game through and through, especially considering the game introduces new shapes to learn every five or so levels. Once you think you've mastered the game, KeysFactory does its best to throw yet another curve ball.
All things considered, however, Ketzal's Corridors is a rewarding experience for those who are always up for a true challenge. The game makes brilliant use of the 3DS's glasses-free tech--what better way to achieve depth than to make a game about depth and dimensions? Plus, there are two multi-player modes: a side-by-side mode that lets two players use both sides of a single 3DS and another that requires two 3DS consoles, each with their own copy of the game.
The control scheme in Ketzal's Corridors is downright difficult, but something players will eventually master ... eventually. (But would there be any other way to do it?) Sadly, given the casual pedigree of the DS brand, that crowd might want to stick to Tetris and Bejeweled for now. If you're ready for a challenge that demands 3D, then by all means download away.
Click here to download Ketzal's Corridors on 3DS for $6.99 Now >
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