Sure, he may look a bit like Super Meat Boy, but does To-fu make a good substitute or is he too bland?
In Hotgen’s debut for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, (available in two separate downloads, regular for the small screen and HD for the iPad – $0.99 & $1.99 respectively), you control a little rectangular slab of tofu, somewhat redundantly named…To-Fu! To-Fu is also presumably the art of what you, the player, are practicing when you stretch the little sprite like a rubber band and release, firing him across the screen until he hits something to halt his progress. It’s what you hit then, that makes all the difference in this game, as it’s full of puzzling conveyor belts, various blocks and platforms, and switches as well as treacherous spikes, lasers, saw blades, and generally anything that would make to-fu, well, whatever it is that to-fu becomes when it gets mangled.
The central gameplay mechanic of firing your tofu across the fully rendered levels is simple to grasp and holds the same sort of casual appeal that so many physics puzzle games, okay, I’ll say it — it has the same sort of casual appeal that the gameplay mechanic of Angry Birds has — although To-Fu: The Trials of Chi also has some platforming elements to it, as well as brick-breaking and others. It’s actually quite impressive seeing how many different ideas Hotgen came up with across the game’s 100 levels in their design, all centered around making a little soy curd fly.
Although it has a lot of immediate casual appeal, the game is very challenging. In some of the levels, however, a large degree of that challenge is due to not being able to see where you’re aiming To-fu. Instead of having to use your brain, or reflexes, or dexterity to complete objectives, in these instances you have to rely on a little blind luck. This is important given that the game can already be a bit frustrating even without taking things out of the player’s hands a bit, so it can feel like a chore to press on at times, making this something less of a casual game and more of a serious undertaking. This is especially true when you consider how much time you can spend with the levels since you’ll need to replay almost all of them to complete each objective.
These objectives come in only two varieties: collect all of the balls of chi arranged around the level and make it to the exit — a pink fortune kitty(?) — in a set number of moves. Frustrations aside, the level design is a high point of the game because it will force you to accomplish these objectives in wildly different ways according to how obstacles and puzzle elements are arranged. If only there were a zoom function, although you can pan around the levels to see approximately what you’re aiming at.
The game looks absolutely stunning, with beautifully painted menu screens and backgrounds, and To-Fu himself oozes personality. His expression and the sound he makes when you stretch him is enough to make him a mascot-like figure in iOS gaming, although I do question what type of tofu this is that you can stretch and fling it that way. He also suffers no noticeable effects from hitting a spike or saw blade, other than losing his bandana. “Firm” doesn’t do this little guy justice, and that’s not just what the geishas say.
Moving on, the music is nicely done, providing a serene soundtrack which just might save your device from being thrown across the room when you hit a saw blade for the 35th time in a row.
iFanzine Verdict: To-Fu: The Trials of Chi is the type of game that will appeal to those after something with a ton of charm, polish, content, and challenge. Although I can’t help but feel it is missing something. Oh yeah, it’s the zoom function. Seriously Hotgen, that would make this game a lot easier to enjoy at certain points. There are also 22 Game Center achievements for achievement enthusiasts, although in a game with this much to do, there is already plenty of replay value even if you don’t care about achievements at all.