by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Something has gone terribly wrong and now the inhabitants of New Providence have been forced to leave their homeland and return back to Earth. But with the entire populace wanting to board the only available starship, tickets are at a premium. Only those that can afford the extravagant price will be on board when it departs. Protests were inevitable and an uprising takes place with the help of a less-than-friendly group known as Jackals. It is up to you as the Peace Keepers to bring the Jackals and their evil leaders to justice.
Ticket to Earth is part colour-matching puzzle game and part turn-based strategy with a dash of role-playing added for good measure. The main focus of the game takes place on a battlefield comprising a grid of coloured tiles, similar to that of the Expeditions series. Combat may seem a little familiar for those who have played the series, but instead of the hex board in Expeditions, Ticket to Earth has a square tiled board. Each of the coloured tiles represents a different power – Hand, Eye, Heart and Mind. Connecting longer trails of a particular colour builds up your attacking power as well as filling a meter for that particular power. Once the meter is full, a special attack or ability can be activated. Hand abilities are generally useful for close combat, Eye abilities are used for ranged combat, Heart abilities are basically for increased health, and Mind abilities allow the characters to change the tiles to a more favourable colour.
There is a fair bit of strategy involved with the combat, as the player will often need to choose between stringing together longer trails of matching colour squares – which boost the attack meter – or shorter trails that place them in better attacking positions. The various enemies and their positions on the board will often determine which strategy is followed. And the fact that each character is only allowed two actions each turn means that choosing between movement and attack can determine the outcome of the skirmish.
The playable characters each have different strengths and abilities, too. The somewhat naive Rose likes her sword and as such is generally a melee fighter (although some of her abilities allow her to attack from a distance), whilst the rough scoundrel Wolf is a ranged fighter who prefers pistols and rifles. Along with the different fighting styles, each character can learn special abilities. These special abilities can provide some quite powerful attacks, passive buffs or even the allow the changing of nearby squares to another colour. Again, using the attacking abilities cost an action point, so some strategy is involved with deciding when to use them. Luckily, many of the passive abilities and buffs can be used without spending the important action points.
Upgrades and weapons
Characters can improve their abilities and skills by completing missions and the secondary goals within the missions. Each mission completed grants a bonus known as a Talent token. Once enough Talent tokens have been accrued, these can be spent to improve stats and abilities. Weapons can also be purchased with credits collected in game and as a bonus for completing missions. The weapons basically allow the playable characters to have higher hit points or increase the range of attacks. Procuring these improved weapons definitely helps later on in the game, as you take on the boss characters. These bosses have more powerful attacks and are much harder to take down with their greater hit point strength.
The story is told via vibrant comic-like sequences, with dialogue going back and forth between the characters. The conversations are far from riveting but do enough to progress the story. The comic visuals are nice though and are bright and colourful despite the somewhat serious nature of the happenings on New Providence. In combat, the isometric view enables a detailed view of the battlefield, each of the various enemy characters easily distinguishable from the next. The settings too, are quite varied, giving each area a new feel, despite the playing fields being largely the same.
Ticket to Earth is reasonably fun, particularly in short bursts. The combat system is extremely intuitive, and allows for some experimentation with various strategies. And with the variation in enemy types, different strategies will definitely be used from time to time. Ticket to Earth is full of colour which belies the serious tone of the game, but goes well with the more casual feel of the game. The strategic combat is anything but casual, however, requiring some thoughtful planning in the moves, especially if you're looking to complete all the mission goals for each scenario. Episode One only lasts around five or six hours, but with three more episodes coming soon, Ticket to Earth will keep us entertained for hours with its great blend of puzzle and strategy.
Simple to learn, tight combat
Story dialogue is a little dull