Review: Totem

The Xbox Live Community Game scene is a great way for developers who would otherwise have little reach to connect with fellow gamers and consumers and show off the titles that they’ve poured all their heart and soul into. One game that has crept up from the efforts of some of these talented individuals is a rather strange little Tetris clone known simply as Totem. I was given the chance to try out this charming little puzzler and now I’m bringing you my impressions.
There are numerous forms that Tetris-like stackers, blockers, and matchers come in, as puzzle games have that universal appeal to both gamers and nongamers alike. Totem is no different from the rest of the pack, though it does set itself apart slightly with the fact that it is comprised solely of creepy totem faces that you will align properly in order to score points. Totem faces will fall from the sky and fill the play area. It’s your job to obliterate anywhere from three to seven different totem poles, though your screen will keep filling as the creepy statues continue to fall from the sky. Hope it doesn’t rain totems often in that game world – it’d be downright painful!
The levels begin with totem poles that have already fallen and have been stacked in place prior to starting the game, so you must work with what you are given after that. You’ll need to match the same colors of blocks in order to destroy groups of the same colors. Once you’ve done this enough times that the totem pole’s base has been exposed, then the foundation should become vulnerable. Aside from matching the blocks that simply fall, you can switch out blocks between the poles in order to facilitate matches. This is a very simple and straightforward puzzle game that doesn’t require much time in order to learn, but you will need some time with it in order to perfect your skills.
Aside from catching the totems, matching them, and switching then out, you can also utilize an axe to get rid of useless blocks in your way, or even lightning to blast away all blocks of the same color, giving you a surge in points. If you feel the action is going too slow, simply speed up the blocks’ falling speed with the trigger and get ready to up your game! Simply put, if you’ve ever played a puzzle title similar to Tetris or Pokemon Puzzle League before, playing Totem should come quite naturally. 
As far as graphics go, this is a very mundane-looking puzzler with nothing so unique as the ugly and strange totem faces that can be a bit disconcerting, but the blocks are quite vivid and colorful, and I can always appreciate that.
Totem consists of 28 campaign levels. That may seem a bit scant for a puzzle title, but be forewarned that it can get downright ugly. You can choose different difficulties in case you don’t think you’re quite up to the task, but on some of the later levels (especially some boss stages), you may end up having your butt handed to you by the rapid rate that the totems fall and some harrowing environmental status effects.
For 400 Microsoft points, Totem is a solid puzzler that I can easily recommend to anyone who is a fan of games such as Tetris or anything similar. If you enjoy Puzzle Quest, you’ll likely get into Totem as well. If nothing else, hopefully it will inspire you to peruse more community titles, as those games are in dire need of attention.

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