Review of 萌めくり on XBLIG: Try
A nice looking puzzle game that’s fun to play, if you can get past the “What The Hell Japan?” style.
萌めくり (pronounced Moe Mekuri) translates to “Moe Turn”. Moe is Japanese slang for moekko, a budding or blossoming young girl. That’s a nice way of saying “cute 14 year old girl with big breasts” and is common in anime and manga. If you knew this already, welcome otaku.
“Turn” – the second part of the title – refers to the gameplay. In Moe Mekuri the object is to clear a board of tiles by turning them over. When a tile is turned, connecting tiles also turn (no diagonal turns however). Three special tiles include the green tile will turn the entire row and column on which it sits, the blue tile will turn over twice (but only affect the connecting tiles on the first turn), and the black tile can only be turned indirectly.
In Challenge there are ten puzzles for each of three difficulty levels. In Easy mode, each of the puzzles must be completed to unlock the next level. In Normal and Hard modes all puzzles are unlocked from the start, letting the player jump between levels. This was helpful, as I got stuck one more than once and moving on and coming back kept me from getting to frustrated. Easy mode starts with a simple 4×4 tile grid and allows unlimited moves in an unlimited time. Normal mode increases the grid to 5×5, limited the number of moves but not the time. In Hard mode moves and time is limited, and while Normal mode gives a few extra moves for mistakes, Hard mode demands perfection.
Kohei Gallery, the developer, has released a generous update to the original game – awesome by itself, but even better when you consider that Microsoft’s system doesn’t encourage updates for new content. The update adds a new game “Special” with 75 new puzzles. The tiles are the same, but in Special 5 levels are played consecutively and share a common time limit. At the Hard level, there is only one minute to complete five 6×6 puzzles. I found this final round of Hard puzzles to require some deep thought, and felt great accomplishment when I mastered the puzzles.
Does one really need more of a reward than the knowledge of a successful completion of a puzzle? Kohei thinks so, and this is where the “Moe” part comes into play. As each puzzle is cleared, a portrait of a moekko is unlocked. As the difficulty level increases, a version of each girl wearing less clothing is given as reward. The girls never become fully naked, but images of perk nipples and not-so-subtle camel toe are part of the bounty. Bounty, or maybe horror, as the girls are very young and it falls into the creepy “What The Hell Japan!?” zone. Even as an anime fan and overall open minded guy, I wonder if some of these images won’t have me on an FBI watch list for the next ten years.
You might say to yourself, “well it’s another culture and these might not be intended as sexual images.” Oh, how I’d love to believe that! However, the Special mode update unlocks a new feature in the gallery. When viewing the girl in the Hard outfit (the one with the least clothing, where clothing can mean just band aides over the nipples) the Y button will let you jiggle her breasts. Seriously, what the hell Japan?
Girls aside, the graphics are wonderfully polished and show subtle design qualities that help the player know what going on. Tile animations are fluid and the sounds are pleasant. The music is a love it or hate it proposition. I found the j-pop style to be upbeat and engaging, yet showing the game to Dylan the first thing he did was silence the music.
I encountered a few problems not related to moekko. The game only works with the first controller, using another controller will cause and endless “sing-in” loop. The game sometimes hangs for five seconds or more between menus. The largest problems though is the game can fail to save. This appears to be linked to not returning to the dashboard after playing, and using the Action Game Tkool, a game building tool. Both of these issues look to have been raised in peer review and attributed to issues in Tkool, yet the game was allowed to pass. I’m only able to read the posts via Google translate, but that seems accurate.
Moe Mekuri is a Try. The puzzle gameplay is solid and enjoyable, but the bugs keep it from getting a Buy rating. The developer in me is not willing to accept a game bug due to the use of a toolkit as an excuse to not fix the issue. A bug is a bug, and when a bug costs me 5 hours of progress I think it’s safe to call it a big bug. I am not factoring in the use of moekko to my rating because it is too much of a personal judgment call and has little to do with the game itself. That said, I’ve made a quick video to show you exactly what is unlocked. Be sure it’s okay before your wife catches you; “it’s for a review” only works if you run a game review website!
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