Review: Passage 4

At a Glance

ESRB Rating: NR - Not Rated
My Rating: Everyone
Genre: Puzzle
License: Commercial
Release Year: 2016
Review Published On: October 11th, 2017
Played on: Martha & Thaddeus

Available from:

Gamer's Gate, Steam

Save System:

Your progress is recorded whenever you leave the current level.

Summary of
Major Issues:

The buzzing sounds and commentary heard when you make a mistake can become grating very quickly.

Aside from that, there are tilesets based on the Zodiac, Christmas, and Easter. Which tileset you use is entirely up to you.


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Cute animal characters

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Clearing tiles using the Zodiac tileset

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A jolly Christmas puzzle

Game Overview

Passage 4 is one of those puzzle games that are easily learned, but can still be challenging to someone who's played them for a long time. The basic premise is that you place tiles on the playfield by matching either their color or symbol with the tiles already on the board. As you place more tiles, you'll create "passages", which are rows or columns that have been completely filled. As you progress, placing more tiles gets increasingly difficult -- the more tiles on the playfield, the harder it is to find a spot for a new one. This is helped a little by the inclusion of tiles that act as wild cards. These often match multiple colors on different sides, allowing them to squeeze into places where no other tile can go.

There is also a lives system, called "credits". You start with 30 credits, and each time you complete a level, you earn one credit. When you attempt to place a tile in an invalid space, reject a tile you could have placed, run out of time for the level, or (in certain difficulties) run out of time to place a time, you lose credits. Once all of your credits are lost, the game is over. On the plus side, you can choose to continue your game from the level you last reached, but you'll forfeit your score by doing so.

This gameplay is further expanded by three game modes, and you can customize the game's appearance by trying different backgrounds and tilesets. Players that like simple but challenging brain teasers might enjoy this title, but the $9 price tag feels a little steep for something this simple. There's no story, and for many players today, there might not be enough here to keep them interested for very long.

Points of Interest

Three game modes
While all three modes use roughly the same formula, they don't feel like rehashes of the same thing. In the Classic mode, your goal is to place as many pieces as you can. Completed passages aren't removed from the board, so things will get rather congested towards the end of the game. The Continue mode is similar, though there is no limit to the number of tiles you can play and passages are removed once they've been completed.

Lastly, there's the Clear mode. In this mode, every level begins with some tiles on the board. Your goal here is to clear these tiles by including them in passages.
Large number of puzzles
Although the Classic mode is really just one puzzle and the Continue mode never really ends, the Clear mode is advertised as having over 220 unique puzzles. Amusingly, it does indeed have more than 220 levels -- exactly one more, for a total of 221 puzzles. These can get very challenging, though how difficult each level is tends to be somewhat random.
Adjustable difficulty
Each game mode can be played at one of three difficulty levels. These slightly change how the game is played. For example, playing on normal means that you'll need to place the tiles fairly quickly, as you're working on a time limit. Easy on the other hand, lacks the timer, allowing you to take your time.
Steam Achievements and Trading Cards
For those of you that collect Steam trading cards, there's a set available for this game. There are also 14 achievements to earn, though none of them are anything more unique than creating a lot of passages or progressing through a given number of levels in various modes. Of particular note is the detail that leaderboards show that nobody has earned the most difficult achievements; I'd say that means most players moved on to other games before attempting these three goals.
Somewhat harsh about mistakes
During long levels, your concentration tends to wane, which makes it harder to tell if there is a place where the next tile can go. Part of the problem is that it's often easy to miss an opening when the board gets congested, as there's a lot of visual noise from all of the colors and symbols. The simplest mistake -- such as overlooking the one available spot -- result in an annoying buzzer sound and the loss of one or more credits.

Basically, between the buzzer, the announcer's remarks about whether or not the tile could've been played, and the red X marks that appear, it really starts feeling like the game is belittling you.

Concerns and Issues

Some tilesets might be problematic
While you're free to choose between several different tilesets, one of them is designed after the Zodiac. Two more are based on holidays, namely Easter and Christmas. These holiday sets don't make a distinction between the secular and religious versions of their respective holiday, which results weirdness like Santa Claus being pictured along with angels and the nativity.