With a story that is a bit more quirky and surprising than its colorful, hand-painted style suggests, Tsioque (pronounced a little like “chalk”) is a point-and-click puzzle adventure game about a young princess at war with an evil wizard. Although I was put off by the opening rhyming narrative that reads like the world’s least original fairy tale, the game’s art and attitude and most important, balance of gameplay and length started to win me over.
Over the course of a handful of hours, the titular Princess Tsioque journeys through a large stone and iron castle in search of the shadow wizard, who has taken control of the place in the absence of the Queen. Taking matters into her own hands, Tsioque escapes from her prison cell and sneaks and puzzles her way through the castle’s corridors and dank dungeons in search of her nemesis. Along the way she evades guards and meets all manner of human, magical and animal foes and potential allies.
Because this is a game and not simply an animated fairy tale (and I’m not convinced that it really shouldn’t just be the latter), the player and Tsioque must, in the way of point-and-click adventures, solve all manner of puzzles by finding the right item to use or pixel to click on. Trial and error is the order of the day, and some lugubrious animations and repetitive sequences sometimes make the puzzle solving a chore, in addition to the expected oblique thinking that seems to be common in the genre. There are no arcane item combinations to figure out but some of the puzzles are head-scratchers to be sure. Tsioque breaks the adventure game mold at several points by introducing some timed puzzle and action sequences that can be frustrating, but at least don’t result in much lost progress. As if anticipating the player’s frustration, a few of these can be skipped altogether.
By far, Tsioque’s strongest elements are aesthetic. The art style is colorful and chock-full of small touches that bring each environment and character to life in an entertaining way, and ithe music and audio are also effective. There is little voice acting, save the narrator and wizard and with the Princess being such a strong force, I kept wishing to hear her speak as well. Her wide eyes convey a lot of emotional range and there are a lot of sly visual jokes and references scattered along the way.
Point-and-click adventure games that are essentially linear stories roadblocked by puzzles always strike me as having misplaced their genre. in Tsioque, solving the puzzles unlocks the story but the puzzles don’t really add much to the tale (which takes a somewhat abrupt change of direction near the end). For much of its length, the slightly post-modern fairy tale isn’t all that engaging, either, or at least not as engaging as the characters and visuals. I wish the developers had voiced their heroine and made the puzzles not just satisfying to solve but a satisfying part of the narrative.