One Wing Cicada; Nintendo Switch; £4.99(4 / 5)
Inspired by classic point-and-click puzzlers from a bygone era, Tardy takes a tried and tested genre and gives it a few unique twists. Originally launched on Steam by indie studio, One Wing Cicada, it has recently made the jump to Nintendo Switch, a system we feel is a perfect fit for a game like this.
Aside from the beautiful pixel art and Vangelis-like melancholy synth soundtrack, the first thing you notice about this game is just how clean the overall design is. Which is why it works so well on the handheld system.
Tardy dispenses with the pixel-hunting, inventory-combing mechanics of its spiritual predecessors and gives players context sensitive exclamation marks which act as points of interest. This works great if you’re playing the Switch in handheld just using the touchscreen, as you can zoom in using the right trigger when more precise control is required. But oftentimes, you can just tap away at the salient parts of the screen and not worry about trying to find elusive hidden pixels.
Tardy tells the story of a Ramto, a stowaway on the starship WALL, an experimental vessel that has a lot of peculiar anomalies hidden in its core systems. Ramto awakes from hypersleep to find the crew dead and the galaxy in peril from a shady central governing body that is systematically wiping out planets under the guise of fighting terrorism.
Ramto’s only guide is a mysterious hologrammatic image of a surviving crewmate, Ann, who is locked in a separate part of the ship. Ramto’s priority in the early chapters of the game are get the ship’s system back up and running and figure out how to get home.
With Ann as his guide, he must hack into the ship’s systems and reboot various pieces of technology. Luckily for us, the designer of the ship was a fan of puzzles and so took great pains to implement some head-scratching conundrums into pretty much every part of WALL that Ramto interacts with.
The puzzles presented, whilst at times very challenging, are genuinely fun to solve – namely because the developers realise that many of the rock-solid, imperceptible solutions required from puzzle games of the ’80s and ’90s weren’t always the most fair. Gamers of a certain age will remember some of the ridiculous solutions required from some of the classic adventures.
With Tardy, you don’t have to combine a rubber chicken with a broken light bulb you found three hours before and then pixel comb the screen to see if it can be squeezed into some random orifice.
These puzzles are coherent. They are solvable using only the items within immediate reach, by deductive logic. Case in point: the first puzzle requires logging into a terminal. There’s a diary next to the terminal that contains all the information you need; you just have to decode it.
This is another reason Tardy plays well on the Switch. Oftentimes, you will be required to overlay one item on top of another – perhaps a torn piece of paper, punched with holes, over another page of scrambled text, which then acts as a cipher. Other times you might be working in the dark, holding a pair of night vision goggles over a broken fuse box in a shadowy corner of the ship. The touch screen on the Switch makes this just as easy as using a mouse.
The puzzles, while seeming tough upon first inspection (even for classic puzzle fans) are satisfying to eventually crack. There were a few times when we felt that the answer was beyond the pale – after spending a couple of hours stuck on one particular puzzle, we solved it without actually knowing what we had done.
The story plays out in a series of conversations between Ramto and Ann. We learn a lot about both characters; their past, their inner demons, their aspirations for the future and their reasons for being aboard WALL. There are some very touching scenes when the pair visit a planet destroyed by the ruling elite and discover the fate of one of its inhabitants through some found journals.
Sometimes, the narrative arc itself seems to be presented as a puzzle. Certain events transpire at particular plot points which leave the player questioning the motivations of the characters, casting doubt on their true identities, even.
A single playthrough took us around five hours. We played blind, with no spoilers or walkthroughs, and found the experience challenging and rewarding in equal measure. It’s worth noting that, like most games of this nature, replay value is pretty much non-existent, unless you want to retry some of the in-game arcade machine ports of Pong, Space Invaders or Galaga.
Tardy represents good value for puzzle fans looking for a decent handheld adventure on the Switch. Its story may ultimately be slightly contrived, but the writing style and dialogue of the main characters is just sharp enough to keep players engaged.
At its heart, Tardy is a neat little tale of love, loss and redemption, contained within a competent puzzler – perfect for on-the-go gaming.