In Taqoban, the latest offering from the ever reliable Rataliaka Games, you’ll take control of two pandas – Tao and Xiang – in their quest to earn as much bamboo as possible.
But how do we go about earning that sweet, sweet bamboo? Naturally, by pushing boxes onto a target area. This is a box-pushing game with a twist though. In Taqoban, you can move portions of the level around, and you’ll need to use this to full effect to open up new pathways and get your box to where it needs to go.
And if you manage to do it in few enough moves, you’ll earn the golden bamboo for your efforts. That isn’t easy though, as you’ll quickly find out.
Taqoban offers four sets of single-player levels of varying difficulties to play through, plus twelve co-op levels for those who happen to have a friend laying around. Before you even gain access to those though, you’ll need to perfect the game’s fairly comprehensive tutorial section. Made up of eleven levels, it does a stellar job of clearly outlining every mechanic you’re going to experience on your box-pushing adventures.
These include standard puzzling fare, like switches, teleporters and doors, as well as features like breakable ice-blocks, areas of the level that can’t be moved and sections that only the box can pass through. On top of that, the game starts adding more and more panels and more and more boxes. By the master levels, you’ll have eight sections to move around, often with multiple boxes that need pushing too.
It’s a lot to take in, but Taqoban does a good job of introducing mechanics gradually, before then combining them together to ramp up the difficulty. The result is a smooth difficulty curve, devoid of any random spikes, that ultimately culminates in levels that will offer a fairly decent challenge to even the most accomplished of box pushers.
Taqoban also comes with a rewind feature. I found this to be a smart introduction, as it made levels more accessible without taking away from the challenge they present. You can really experiment and play moves out without having to worry about losing all progress. It’s especially useful when tackling those tricky master levels or going for those elusive golden bamboos where every move needs to be carefully planned.
As you were probably expecting, Taqoban comes loaded with a fairly easy 1000 Gamerscore. You’ll get achievements for gruelling tasks like… moving a box for the first time or using a switch. Expect to complete the game in under an hour, but be warned that you will have to earn at least two bamboos in the master levels.
Perhaps the only area where the game is lacking is its replayability. In short, there isn’t any. The bamboo counter and golden bamboo are nice, but aren’t required to progress through the game and don’t offer anything. There’s simply no point to go back to a level once you’ve completed it.
There are also issues with resolution, with some aspects (like the level complete screen) seeming blurrier and out-of-focus compared to the rest of the game. On top of that, with only a few tracks, the Chinese-inspired soundtrack does tend to grate after a while. Luckily though, these are relatively minor issues and don’t impact the gameplay.
Overall, Taqoban is certainly one of Ratalaika Games’ stronger releases. It’s a great little puzzler, with the simple, easy-to-grasp mechanics allowing for levels that offer a challenge to even the most adept box pusher. There’s enough content here to offer at least a couple hours of entertainment and I’d recommend checking it out, achievement hunter or not.
Taqoban can be downloaded from the Xbox Store