One of the most popular forms of puzzle gaming involves placing four game pieces in a row on a board. Four-in-a-row games like Connect Four are rooted in the tactical simplicity of Tic-Tac-Toe or three-in-a-row solving, but take it a step further.
We’ve explored several four-in-a-row puzzle games before. ThinkFun’s All Queens Chess added a wrinkle by employing the rules of chess in four-in-a-row solving. Quarto used pieces of varying heights, colors, and shapes to create a more complex game play experience.
And now, Tricia McLaughlin and R&R Games bring us another evolutionary step in four-in-a-row puzzle gaming: Slideways.
At first glance, Slideways offers a simple 4×4 play area, where the blue squares can be rotated to reveal a gold or red square claimed by the player in a given turn. Each play claims one square per turn.
In this picture, two squares each have been claimed by the players. But Slideways allows the player to manipulate the play area itself by sliding a row one square in either direction, adding another dimension to the game.
So now players can claim blue squares or shift the rows to give themselves the best opportunity to not only get four in a row, but to thwart an opponent’s efforts to do the same. (Be careful, though, as the sliding feature can be a little clunky.)
But that’s not all. Slideways has one more trick up its sleeve.
Players also have the option of changing claimed squares to their own color! In this case, one player rotated a gold-claimed square into a red-claimed square.
And honestly, this is the feature that really separates Slideways from other four-in-a-row games, because it requires the player to constantly assess and reassess the game every single turn. You can’t take it for granted that a claimed square will stay claimed, or that the three squares you already have lined up will stay lined up.
There is one exception to this rule: you cannot reverse a square a player has just claimed. You have to wait a round before doing so.
So the red square claimed in the top row this turn cannot be immediately turned into a gold one. The other player has to wait until the next round, so instead, the other player changes one of the red squares in the third row into a gold one.
All of these possible moves — claiming a square, shifting a row, or taking an opponent’s square — make Slideways the most complex and controllable four-in-a-row puzzle game I’ve ever seen, and it can make for a fun and nerve-wracking playing experience, especially against a skilled opponent.
Plus games move so quickly (usually lasting less than 10 minutes) that you’re sure to play multiple rounds without giving up a huge chunk of your day. My opponent and I played 11 or 12 games in about half an hour, and each one felt new and different because of the many play options available to us.
(Plus there’s a three-player variation that starts with some squares flipped to red, others flipped to gold, and the third player uses blue as their color.)
Simple to learn, but tough to master, Slideways is a marvelous addition to the four-in-a-row puzzle game field, one that ensures you’ll take no move and no turn for granted. Portable and self-contained, this one is a treat.
[I discovered Slideways at the Connecticut Festival of Indie Games. You can pick it up on the R&R Games website for $11.99.]
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