Odds are you remember sitting in elementary school, fighting with those 7 shapes that your teacher said are supposed to make a square. Since the tangram puzzle’s inception in China, people worldwide have fought with those seven shapes (called “tans”) to make shapes, animals, and all sort of other patterns. Tangram Attack tasks you with reversing the process: take pre-formed shapes and slice them into their 7 component pieces as quickly as possible. The 3DS release of the game is fun, but some precision-related issues keep the game from being a clean slice.
It’s easy to imagine Tangram Attack as a more accuracy-oriented Fruit Ninja: using the stylus, you cut tans off of the puzzle in single, straight cuts: lop off a parallelogram here, a triangle there, until 6 perfect cuts trigger the next challenge. Any cuts which try to slice off multiple pieces count as a penalty against you, while multiple good cuts in sequence raise your score multiplier. The challenge of working quickly and accurately powers Tangram Attack, and rest assured the task isn’t simple when playing in Arcade Mode and all the pieces are the same color. Thankfully, the game has a fantastic tutorial mode to teach the process of divide-and-conquer.
Tangram Attack’s three gameplay modes, Zen, Blitz, and Arcade, each offer their own complexities, but to get to any of those you have to start with the tutorial mode (called the Academy). The tutorial does a great job easing you into the process of first learning when and where to cut, then integrating speed into the process. The pieces start off all different colors, then two are the same, then three, all the way up until you’re hacking at uniformly colored groups. Clearing tutorial levels open up the other modes. Zen puzzles let you take your time and only lose if you make 3 incorrect slices on a puzzle. Blitz mode is a 60-second score attack. Arcade, my primary play style, times you with a countdown clock that gains time with each successful puzzle. In my opinion, Arcade offers the most fun and challenge, but it also opens up the game’s two largest issues: slice accuracy, and cutting symmetrical shapes.
Tangram Attack requires the kind of accuracy when slicing across the screen that makes it great for the 3DS with its stylus. But too frequently slices go awry, breaking chains and costing both time and points. In addition, sometimes cutting a puzzle down to its core leaves a perfect square, or another combination of two pieces that are impossible to deduce past random chance which angle to slice from. Here, the skilled ninja feeling you can get when whizzing through other puzzles breaks down, and it’s definitely depressing to lose a large combo to essentially chance. Though I’d have liked the game to be more accurate in its swipe detection, I’d have also liked it to determine when two viable swipes are possible at the end of a puzzle and accept them both.
With no story to speak of or real characters aside from the instructor in the Academy, Tangram Attack offers nothing but streamlined, score-based gameplay. This gives players looking for a good, casual time-consumer a decent run for the money at US $2.99. That said, those looking for depth, or a puzzler with the finesse and long-term appeal of a game like Tetris or even Candy Crush Saga with its many puzzles should likely look elsewhere.