Title image for Side Decide showing a cube which has raised shapes on it, resting on a board with similar cut out shapes.

Side Decide Review

Game: Side Decide
Genre: Puzzle, Lifestyle, Indie
System: Nintendo Switch (Also on Steam (Windows))
Developer | Publisher: Blue Volcano
Age Rating: US Everyone | EU 3+
Price: US $6.99 | UK £6.99 | EU € 7,99
Release Date: August 3rd, 2023

Review code used, with many thanks to Keymailer.

Following its release on Steam in 2021, Sydney-based Blue Volcano studios have ported Side Decide to the Switch. Based on the classic children’s games of matching shapes and wooden blocks, can you decide which side to use?

Will I be rockin’ and a-rollin’, or will it all come tumbling down?

Deciding the Side in Side Decide

A 1 by 6 playing area, with cut out shapes. A cube with matching raised shapes rolling over it towards the checkerboard finishing cube.
Starting easy!

The concept of Side Decide is really easy. You have a playing area made of cubes. Each of these cubes has a cut-out shape on the upper surface. You then have the player’s cube. This has raised shapes on each of the faces. The objective is to get from the starting block to the end block by rolling the cube. However, the player’s cube will only move if the shape on the face matches that on the playing area block.

Level 30 complete screen with bronze, silver and gold stars collected.
Going for Gold!

For the blue circle and pink square faces, matching is straightforward. However, for the green triangle faces, you need to think about the orientation of the triangle, not just the shape. You receive a bronze star once the level is complete. For gold and silver, there are move targets to aim for. If you achieve gold, you automatically get the silver star as well as the bronze.

The level select area, completed levels are coloured according to the star achieved. Levels still to play are white.
So many levels to choose from!

A great feature is how new levels unlock in the selection area once the 12 tutorial levels are complete. New levels unlock if the adjacent square has been completed. So instead of just getting level 13, you get 14 new levels to attempt. This allows for a totally random approach to completing the game. With only a few levels completed, I managed to roll to one of the corners and do level 91. This also means that a tricky level can be skipped over and returned to in the future.

Square Dancing

Player's cube on a blue circle block, with press R (to rotate clockwise) or L (to rotate counter clockwise) on-screen instructions
Let’s twist!

Within Side Decide, there are a few blocks which help the player achieve their goal. Firstly, landing on the blue circle block allows rotation. There is also a wildcard block, represented by a yellow star. This allows any of the shapes to land there.

Player's cube on a black swirl, with press A (to teleport) on-screen instruction.
Using the teleport block.

There are also teleporting blocks. These can be used to get closer to the finishing block, or, when next to a rotation block, used to rotate the block and then teleport back.

A wildcard yellow star block, with exclamation mark on it, falling away.
Bye, cube!

As with all good games, there should be an element of challenge. In Side Decide, some of the wildcard blocks, those with an exclamation mark on them, will fall away once used. So it’s impossible to retrace your steps. I found myself stuck several times, having used one of the wildcard falling blocks and then having nowhere to go except to replay the level.

A playing area with all the cubes coloured purple.
D. I. S. C. O.

The other challenge is the rainbow block levels. The playing area is a single colour which flashes through the colours of a rainbow, like a disco floor. I enjoyed the challenge of having to study the shape and not rely on the colour, but I found the change in colour made these levels uncomfortable to play.

Side Decide Achievements

The achievements board with 4 awards in colour, including the achievement called golden day indeed received for getting 22 gold stars.
Yippee! Achievements. A golden day indeed!

I like getting achievements, and although the Side Decide ones will be obtained by 100% completion, it’s great to have acknowledgements throughout your play. Even better, being told what is needed to get the achievement.

Gameplay

The controls within the gameplay are intuitive, and the tutorial levels explain them clearly. Reminders are given on-screen on the appropriate block. However, sometimes I struggled to get the cube to move. Whichever way I moved, the control stick didn’t seem to have an effect. Quite often I needed to rotate the camera to get a better alignment for movement. In docked mode, I struggled to get the pause menu to appear, although it wasn’t a problem in handheld mode. However, in either mode, selecting the ‘replay’ from within the pause menu was a nightmare. Moving left would often jump over it, and then I would have to move right and left several times until it was highlighted. Other times, it selected it straight away. Frustrating!

There were options to turn off the music and sound, as well as vibration and the bouncy trees (scenery in the playing area). The music was twofold; there was an underlying ethereal tune which played most of the time and then a more heavier beat overtone. It was fine in short gaming sessions but got repetitive and annoying after a while, especially if I struggled with a level. Maybe that is what the developers meant when they say, “Peaceful music that adapts to the player’s progress”!

I experienced a few crashes, but as the game saves after every completed level, I didn’t lose any progress. The font size is large enough to read on the small screen, but there is no touchscreen functionality.

For the spatially aware, puzzle-solving, shape-recognising geniuses, it would probably take a couple of hours to complete. For me, more like 12 hours because even though I could complete a level, trying to work out how to do it in fewer moves is tough.

Conclusion

Side Decide is a great puzzle game. A simple concept of wooden blocks and matching shapes, but it’s not all child’s play. Trying to reach the goal is challenging, but with multiple levels to tackle in any order, it makes progress easier and not as frustrating as other games in the genre.

Final Verdict: I Like it a Lot I like it a lot

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