Ever since Tetris came bundled in with the original Game Boy back in 1989 I’ve had a soft spot for puzzle games on handheld devices. They’re often the perfect type of game to play when waiting for an appointment, passing time at the airport (remember those days pre-pandemic?), and as buffers between huge sprawling adventure games where you just want to relax and solve a few quick puzzles. Thanks to the Switch and the various lockdowns and quarantines I’ve found myself playing more and more puzzlers on the big TV as well and I’m always up for something new to pass the time. If you’re into numbers, dice, and Sudoku then Tens! (exclamation point included as part of the title, but for the rest of the review and my sanity removed) might just be your newest addiction.
I’ll admit I have a thing for grids and numbers and that’s probably why I love the Picross S series (and alternatives like Murder By Numbers) so much. So, when I first saw Tens I was immediately intrigued. The game takes place on a 5×5 grid and you are given three dice (although sometimes there are double dice, sort of like dominoes) with random numbers (1 through 6). Your goal is to make the rows and/or columns add up to the magical number 10. Doing so will eliminate all of the dice in that row and/or column, netting you the points. You score more if you can eliminate more than one row or column at a time and also for chains. These can happen if you have accumulated values higher than 10 and then when you eliminate a die in that column or row the value drops down to exactly 10 and then it disappears as well. Yes, this can sound confusing, and honestly it might be for some people (including me) at first, but as I played more and more I began seeing opportunities to score more points. You fail the round if you fill up your grid and can no longer lay down any more dice.
There are several modes of play, with Adventure Mode being the default starting point. Here you’ll be placed on an overworld map and each dot on the map represents a new puzzle to solve. As you complete these you’ll move forward and eventually land on a boss space where you’ll have to battle against an AI opponent. Here the game takes a slight change in tactics because you’ll be laying down dice in real-time trying to make tens as fast as possible. This will in turn send junk tiles over to your opponent. Whoever runs out of space on the board first loses. My strategy here completely went out the window because I was taking my time and trying to solve things in my head on the normal levels. All of a sudden I had to think on my feet and try to outsmart a competitor as quickly as possible. I like this change of pace and it adds a different dynamic to the normal levels. If you’re into this style of play over the main game, there’s a competitive two player couch competitive mode that you can enjoy with a friend.
As you progress through the adventure the puzzle boards become more devious. For example, you will come across some that have question marks on some of the squares. If you place a die on that spot it will immediately re-roll and you never know what number will pop up. This can be good or bad, depending on how lucky you are. Other hazards and gimmicks will pop up as you make it further into the game. One of my favorites were the arrow squares that when you place a die down it kicks it in the direction of the arrow until it either hits another die or hits the wall. These arrows are sometimes chained together and you can really send dice flying all over the place, which is kind of fun to experiment with.
There’s a lot to like here when it comes to presentation. The game is bright and colorful and has a modern flat graphical design that’s become all the rage over the past few years on websites and UI design in general. There are little animation flourishes and the HD Rumble kicks in when you manage to eliminate dice off the board. As you earn more points and fill up a level gauge you’ll unlock new dice blocks to change up the visual aesthetics a bit and you can earn new characters to play as. The audio is somewhat relaxing and unobtrusive, which is nice in a puzzle game, although I do admit I like my catchy tunes now and again (paging Dr. Mario).
In the end, Tens isn’t going to light up the sales charts or make anyone’s favorite game of the year, but these small puzzle games really bolster an already fantastic library on the Switch. I love to play games like this right before I head to bed, as it helps clear my head and I honestly tend to have a better night’s sleep. I don’t see myself being as hooked on this game as I am on Picross or Tetris, but this is fun in its own right. Even if it doesn’t quite have the addictive quality of the classics, but there’s plenty here to enjoy.
- Graphics - 8/108/10
- Sound - 7.5/107.5/10
- Gameplay - 7.5/107.5/10
- Lasting Appeal - 6.5/106.5/10
Final Thoughts: GOOD
If you like puzzle games like Sudoku, you’ll probably find a lot to enjoy with Tens! It’s a bit simpler than some puzzlers, which should appeal to a wider audience. With appealing audio visuals and a somewhat lengthy adventure mode, this is a fun puzzle game to whittle away the time.
Craig has been covering the video game industry since 1995. His work has been published across a wide spectrum of media sites. He’s currently the Editor-In-Chief of Nintendo Times and contributes to Gaming Age.