I had this sitting half-finished on my HD for a good bit, should probably post it before I forget it exists.
I can’t think of any other way to start writing about this game than to say that yes, it is very clearly inspired by Hexcells. Could one say that it is a Hexcells knock-off? That would be a step too far, but it basically is a nice way of saying that being so heavily inspired by a different game doesn’t make the game itself seem particularly inspired itself. In most cases you say “go play the known original and if you want more of it, then try this.” It is probably still the correct course of action here…
…but I’m not convinced that Tametsi isn’t actually better than the Hexcells games, which I collectively consider to be quite good.
This would normally require me writing a bit about the Hexcells games for those unfamiliar with them but I’ve done that at least once if not multiple times already in these topics so to summarize and oversimplify: smash picross and minesweeper together in irregularly shaped arrangements of hexes and you basically get Hexcells (as the series progressed it added some rules beyond what those two sources offered, we’ll ignore that). In those and the other various Matthew Brown created -Cells games he’d take those rules, craft a selection of roughly 36 puzzles per game that explore said rules fairly thoroughly, and it’d be a good way to spend a few hours. I’d actually describe them as elegant in that respect.
Tametsi is messier. The shape of the cells are sometimes square, sometimes hexagonal, occasionally a mix of different shapes, even rarely triangles. One of the biggest rules in the game varies from puzzle to puzzle: with the square-based puzzles some have minesweeper rules where a numbered square counts up all the marked squares surrounding it including diagonals (i.e. if # was the central square of a 3x3 grid then there would be eight squares surrounding it) and are marked by a yellow X symbol in the upper right corner, and others only count those squares that share a full side (# would in that case only have four adjacent squares). There are also less ways that the game can indicate if a square should be marked or not, pretty much only using the minesweeper numbered cells and the picross numbers on a given row/column/diagonal, ignoring many of the variants the Hexcells games introduced. What it does add is the option for a puzzle to have different colored cells where the side of the screen not only tells you how many total cells are yet to be marked, but also how many of each color. This is a really solid addition for reasons I’ll touch on in a bit.
Tametsi’s strength is in terms of both scale and sternness. The typical -Cells game will last me about four hours with the start being a teaching of concepts, the middle being an exploration of said concepts and the last set of puzzles being a true test of one’s grasp of said concepts. Tametsi even while teaching early on starts trickier than those games do and quickly ramps up beyond what a -Cells game would ever ask of you. It is also a hundred puzzles long with sixty bonus puzzles that apparently can get even trickier. My game time when I completed the hundredth puzzle (and none of the bonus ones) was past the thirty-eight hour mark. The problem with the -Cells games for me is that they always ended with me wanting more, and as someone who plays a lot of numerical puzzle games only really getting to a level that truly challenged me by the end. With Tametsi you get a truly stacked package of puzzles that basically ramps up the difficulty as far as one possibly can which ultimately makes it a niche-within-a-niche product, but as someone within that very specific target demo it is wonderful. It’s also only $2.99 which is kinda ridiculous.
The puzzles themselves, beyond being large in number and difficult, are also quite good! This is an odd thing to say about a kinda-grid-based numerical puzzle game, but it in a way has something resembling level design. The overall shape of the puzzle varies a good deal, and that can make a difference in terms of how solving it unfolds. The addition of the different color cells feeds into this as while the “minesweeper” cells give you info regarding the immediately adjacent cells, and the “picross” outer numbers can give info about a given line of cells, the color cells allow a cell in a given area of a puzzle to give you info about one in an entirely different location. If you can show that five green cells are left to be marked and you can figure out that of a given eight green cells four of them must be marked,you can deduce that of all the other green cells in the puzzle only one of them will eventually be marked, and if you can figure out which one it is you can eliminate the rest of them. This helps give the puzzles their own sense of flow, and how even if they initially seem similar on a superficial level they can develop and be solved in significantly different ways.
This various kinds of info matter as the game eventually gets so stingy with its info that you will need to deduce every scrap of it you can to have any hope of finishing a given puzzle. If I had to describe the flow of the game it would be to compare it to pulling on loose strings (a piece of info that allows you to mark or eliminate a given set of cells) to unravel something (solving the puzzle). It becomes more difficult by pulling itself tighter and tighter to the degree that you will have to go over every inch of it just to try and find the tiniest thread to pull on and hoping that in turn will cause another thread to pop up. Often times there will be no immediately evident bit of info available with one having to look at several possible moves and deduce if there is something about one of them that eventually shows itself to be definitely incorrect (ex. if a cell is marked and I follow the consequences on the rest of the board as far as I can, it eventually requires three cells next to a two to be marked). It is a very particular kind of challenge that won’t be for everyone, and even for those who it is for it is likely to ramp beyond what they are willing to tolerate.
I mean look at that picture here, it actually gives you a lot of info but can you even tell where you would even begin to try and solve it? (The 5_3_24 bit near the mid-left is one of those early available threads FWIW). This is an extreme example, but it gives an idea as to the level of deduction
It does have one clever tool to help one when they are trying to make these deductions. Other numerical puzzle games give you the option to “test” mark or eliminate a given cell in order to better see how the consequences of such move would play out. Tametsi does not offer that. It instead gives you the option to click on a pencil-shaped icon and go into a drawing mode. This basically freezes the game board as is and lets you use a simple MS Paint knock-off atop of it. You can mark cells, draw lines, take notes, write down thoughts, mark things with different colors that only you understand, basically stuff that every DS game should have let you done with every map. It is an odd thing to love but man, I loved that thing. I don’t think I could have completed half those puzzles without it and I liked how freestyle it was compared to the traditional options these games have for testing.
Yeah that is technically a huge spoiler (good luck committing that to memory!) but it shows the basic interface and how one could choose to mark things to keep tabs on where things could be marked and such. Worth noting is that while you can exit a puzzle midway and have the game automatically save your current progress it will not save any of these notes, hence why I have a bunch of screenshots saved just like this one.
For someone not particularly deep into these kinds of games I think any of the Matthew Brown -Cells games is a better option/entry point. However, for those more experienced or who have gone through those and still want more this is a great option, but one must walk in with the knowledge that they might have to walk away at some point.
For me though, I love it