I must admit, when I saw the preview screenshot for 'Growing Ties', I had no idea what to expect. I thought maybe "Okay, it's some kind of sim… maybe it's an 'Angry Birds'-style game, but with ties…" Thankfully, 'Growing Ties' is neither of those things, but something else entirely. Hats off and ties off to Dr Ludos, the creator of this excellent game, for bringing something truly special to the Lynx: an indie-style, skill-based game with style, variety, humor and terrific visual execution. So, Lynxers… fix up look sharp!
'Growing Ties' on the Atari Lynx has yourself, the player, as a tailor responsible for ensuring everyone in your shop gets a tie. Right? Only, it's not as simple as that! You need to look carefully at the people before you, and use your "tie machine" (which hovers left and right at the top of the screen) to give them a tie of the right size, and sometimes even the right colour. It's a hilarious concept that brings a surprising amount of depth: anyone who has owned a business can relate to the need for good servicing to keep your customer base! In this case, it's essential to advance to the next level!
The graphics are just perfect for this kind of game. They are actually very well done. They may look quite simple, but they don't have to be complex: in fact, you will be grateful for their basic representation. That's because you need to use your eyesight carefully when you create your ties, and think to yourself, "how long does this tie have to be?" Each person who waddles onto the screen is a different height, but they all have that same nervous and expectant expression! You will either give them a smile (for the right sized tie), an impassive face (a sub-standard tie), or a disappointed look (funny and tragic at the same time!)
There is a great little intro and menu screen theme, which gives the game a somewhat suspenseful vibe: hey, you’ve got customers to keep happy! Aside from that ditty, there is no musical theme in the main playing background, which is a bit of a shame (it would have been icing on the cake). But the sound effects are truly well done, and have just the right amount of impact for your actions. The 'flat' sound effect that occurs when someone receives a dud tie is my fave. You'll relish every 'ding' of getting the correct tie, because it's another couple of points added onto your score. If you don't fit enough quality ties, it's redoing the level for you, buddy!
'Growing Ties' would not work if the controls weren't spot-on, and thankfully, they are. There's no excuse for firing off a nasty tie on one of your waiting recipients, because the tie machine is just so easy to control. Though you can't stop it moving right to left, controlling the tie length, tie colours and length of tie is a breeze. Better yet, if you don't like the length of the tie you made, you can fire it downwards between avatars with no penalty, allowing you to start the next tie. Another amazing thing is that you don't have to get the tie directly on the centre of each recipient; close enough = good enough. Nicely done, Dr Ludos.
The most unexpected thing about this game is the variety. Customers want different coloured ties, short ties, long ties... but each level has a different focus (like entirely tall recipients or a time-locked rush for a top score). I couldn’t believe it when I was also rewarded for "combos", such as getting two excellent ties in a row. If you want to try a later level because you got stuck, then just select it through the in-game menu. I imagine playing 'Growing Ties' with a friend would be great fun. It's just the kind of game you could take in turns. Ultimately, you must get specific threshold score for each level by making (and fitting) good ties, or you have to redo that stage. But you'll want to anyway, because 'Growing Ties' is that much fun.
In all, 'Growing Ties' is a funny, quirky little game for the whole family. It has a broad appeal, and could work on literally any device or console. Thankfully, we get to appreciate it here on the Atari Lynx, and it feels quite a gift in itself. Puzzle fans and skill-based game players will lap it up, and even fans of other genres will likely get charmed by it's humor and gradual, increasing challenge. 'Growing Ties' is truly one of the shining lights among recent Atari Lynx gaming releases. It benefits from the creative license and careful crafting that is frequent amongst independent games; and with it's terrific, bold uniqueness, it couldn't have come from anywhere else.Score Card
This review was submitted by Jon Mc from JMac Productions