On the face of it, Tetragon is a charming little indie puzzle platformer which looks like an interactive fairytale book. The whole world spins (when you choose to make it do so) in the same way as a Rubix Cube would, shifting the gravity along with it.
The world of Tetragon was once a peaceful realm, as the story goes, before a creature fed by evil energy managed to destroy the TetraGen, and plunge the world into chaos. The monster was imprisoned but the damage had already been done, resulting in the eerily beautiful but incomplete world you find yourself in.
You play as Lucios, a lumberjack who is searching for his missing son. You’ll encounter him several times in spirit form, as you explore the world of Tetragon. Lucios must traverse a fragmented world, collecting the pieces of the TetraGen at the same time. A mysterious being will guide you through your adventure, but isn’t as trustworthy as it first seems.
As I mentioned earlier, turning the world 90 degrees at a time is a key feature of the game, but it’s not the only trick Lucios has up his sleeve. By using a mysterious but powerful lantern, he will also be able to move different kinds of pillars (or towers) in order to find a path forward.
Some towers are simple stone pillars, whilst others will ablaze or become riddled with spikes as they slowly return to their default position, unless you find a way of locking them into place. You can select which tower to move using the bumpers on your controller, however it’s a clunky process as you never seem to start with the pillars closest to you and they are often the ones you need to move. This isn’t too much of an issue, unless you are needing to make the move quickly which can then become frustrating. More on that later.
The other hazard Lucios will need to be aware of is fall damage. He can’t drop from too great a height without the fall killing him. You’ll see a helpful red bar as you approach each drop which indicates that it is too high to survive it.
There are four worlds to explore in Tetragon, and for the most part the first half of the game is pretty straightforward. Each will end with a larger symbol matching puzzle that unlocks the path to the next world. It’s in the second half where the levels get much more challenging, and grabbing the TetraGen pieces is significantly more difficult. There is a certain fragment which you can reach, for example, but if you aren’t standing the right way up you won’t be able to take it which seems a tad unfair.
Lucios gains the ability to jump higher at one point in the game, which adds some depth to the gameplay. However, this is a one off, which feels like a missed opportunity to continually develop the platforming action.
Tetragon looks really pretty, with each level showing off a hand-drawn environment encased within the cube like worlds. The centre of the background in each world is similar to a kaleidoscope that looks deep into the universe beyond. The soundtrack is also a joy; it’s a hauntingly atmospheric companion to the shattered world Lucios finds himself exploring.
I did find, however, that there are a few issues with Tetragon’s control scheme. As well as selecting towers being a fiddly affair, moving left and right isn’t as responsive as it ought to be, which sometimes leaves Lucios standing still when the game hasn’t registered what you want him to do. It can take a few attempts for him to get his backside into gear.
I was also left stuck in mid air a few times when trying to turn the level and once when I approached Lucios’ son, meaning I had to start again from scratch each time. On one occasion when I turned the world, gravity didn’t move with it meaning I plummeted to my death, sideways. There are certainly some gremlins in the system still to be ironed out.
My main issue, however, is the final boss in Tetragon. It’s absolutely infuriating. Given that this is a game suitable for all ages, I will personally award a medal to any child who can defeat this enemy. Essentially, you are being fired at with elemental energy beams, and you need to quickly move towers to defend yourself, and reflect the shots back at the enemy to damage it.
However, you need to do this many times and with pinpoint accuracy. The stage will also be rotated on numerous occasions, completely changing the landscape and leaving you vulnerable to attack. If you can think fast enough to ensure the fall damage from the turn doesn’t kill you, just hope that you don’t then get crushed by the loose stone pillars. If you get hit once by any of these hazards, you die.
It’s challenging enough, however with all the control niggles it becomes a hateful, utterly frustrating encounter that means an otherwise enjoyable game ends on a real sour note. Some may simply choose to walk away, and I really wouldn’t blame them. It really feels out of step with the rest of the game.
Tetragon is an attractive puzzle platformer, but not without its niggles. It’s enjoyable for the most part, however the final boss exposes the control scheme issues that otherwise don’t prove too troublesome elsewhere.
Take in the latest in puzzle platforming with Tetragon on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One