Music and rhythm games have become quite a sensation ever since the likes of Guitar Hero and Rock Band showed up, so it’s no real surprise that this particular genre has trickled down and found its way into the indie world of electronic fun relatively quickly. Games such as Audiosurf, Beat Hazard, and Rhythm Zone bear witness to this fact, and although these titles have totally different mechanics, they all have one feature at their core: your music. Whether you’re riding pulsating waveforms in a spaceship or desperately trying to keep up with a barrage of increasingly insane note combos, it all comes down to those little digital sound files sitting on your computer, on which you obviously spent vast amounts of painstakingly hard-earned money.
*Gasp!* You didn’t!?
Well in that case, just shut up and read on.
So along comes Turba, a new entrant in the aforementioned indie music-based games category.
Awkward name? Yes.
Weird gameplay? Definitely not.
The game takes the standard “match 3” formula and basically chucks in some clever little tricks that make use of your music tracks, and so if you’ve ever played, seen, or even just read about games like Bejeweled and its many spinoffs, you’ll be no stranger to how Turba plays out.
You have your standard game board and four different coloured blocks filling up the playing area either upwards (“Ascend” mode) or downwards (“Descend” mode) as time marches on. The blocks are generated according to the beats of the track being played, and it’s your job to prevent the board from filling up completely by selecting three or more adjacent blocks of the same colour and then blowing them into oblivion. Add in multiplier blocks, ticking time bomb blocks, and some special powerups to aid your frantic, fumbling fingers, and you’ve got Turba. It’s that simple, really.
There are some things which the game does a bit differently from other similar colour/block/gem matching games though, which is a good thing – you wouldn’t want to spend $10 to play an exact ripoff of said similar games just so you can load up your own tunes in the background. Let’s take a look…
For starters, as mentioned previously, the game utilizes a “beat detection system” to generate the blocks on the board based on music. You can either choose from one of eight built-in tracks, or select from one of the thousands of your own MP3s lying on your hard drive, all of which you undoubtedly ripped from original album discs using commercially available ripping software. While there are three difficulty levels for you to take a stab at, it’s worthwhile to note that to some degree, the amount of challenge you’ll face also depends on the song being played, independent of the difficulty level. Songs that have fast tempos and high numbers of beats per minute will give you a noticeably harder time than other more moderately paced tracks on the same difficulty setting, so in theory, the amount of challenge and you get out of the game is only limited by the size of your music library.
Second, is the way the controls work out. You don’t simply click rows and columns of blocks to swap colours around and make them disappear; Turba has a fair bit more depth to its block-blasting control scheme. At its simplest, you left-click to select blocks on the board, and right-click to blow them up. Holding down the left mouse button lets you drag and select multiple blocks, while double-clicking it selects the currently highlighted block and upto four adjacent ones of the same colour, if present. And lastly, single-clicking the scroll wheel clears all selected blocks. Some of the actions also have keyboard buttons bound to them, but it is possible to play entirely with the mouse with no great discomfort. That may seem like quite a few ways of doing one simple thing (selecting blocks), but trust me, if you want to score big and play on the harder difficulties, you’re going to need every one of those moves at some point or the other, and you’re going to need them very often.