Madoris R: The House That Switch Built

There’s an assumption among certain quarters of the gaming community these days that for a game to be “good” it needs to be technically impressive, it needs to be challenging and it needs to have complex, deep mechanics.

Madoris R doesn’t really fulfil any of those requirements, but 1) that doesn’t stop it being enjoyable and compelling, and 2) it costs £4.50.

If you’ve been looking for a Switch game that is ideal to chill out with when you’ve got a few minutes to spare, be sure to take a look at this one. Let’s explore!

Madoris R is named after the Japanese word for “floor plan”, madori. In the game, you’re given various madori to arrange into a square grid as you see fit, and it’s your aim to keep being able to place pieces for as long as possible. There’s no time limit or “pressure” mechanic; it’s a purely cerebral challenge that you can take your time over as much as you like.

The core mechanic at play in Madoris R has two steps. Firstly, if you create a complete horizontal or vertical line across the board, the tiles that make up that line will be “painted” in a colour, distinguishing them from their usual monochrome look. And secondly, if this cases a complete madori to end up coloured in, it disappears and scores you points — or “rent”, if you want to be thematic about it.

The game doesn’t do an amazing job of explaining how this works to you, and in fact the few little frills it adds to its presentation add a certain amount of confusion. The board is divided into different coloured areas, for example, and thus it’s easy to assume that you need to try and get all the madori blocks to end up the same colour. In fact, it’s much simpler than that; the colour simply represents the “desirability” of the area and consequently affects the rent value of any madori blocks you complete there, but other than that it’s not something you need to worry about when creating lines.

As you progress, you start to encounter more and more complex pieces that use more tiles in one go. You have the opportunity to use a limited “TNT” resource to destroy an upcoming block, but you can only do this a certain number of times per game. The game’s interface implies that you can potentially do this up to three times, but, once again, it doesn’t explain how you get it beyond the initial single use you’re provided with.

Likewise, the game also doesn’t explain why the upper-left corner of the screen displays the name of an area of Japan (again, this relates to desirability, effectively acts as a “score multiplier” of sorts, and is an indicator of how well you’re doing in that particular playthrough) or the lower-left corner houses a meter that appears to indicate your rank in a real-estate organisation (this is an indicator of how well you’ve done across all your playthroughs).

This almost total lack of explanation may be frustrating for some people, but I actually rather respect Madoris R for keeping so many of its non-essential systems seemingly opaque to the player. The initial tutorial the game provides tells you all the basic rules that you need to get started; everything else is something you’ll have to work out and discover for yourself. And, to be honest, you don’t need to understand all of those hidden rules to enjoy the game; the simple pleasure of placing these floor plans and making them interlock as pleasingly as possible is fun enough in itself.

However, look at it this way: when you learn a classic board game with relatively simple mechanics — say, something like chess or draughts — you tend to learn nothing but the basic rules, such as how the pieces move and the main condition for victory. People who find themselves enjoying those basic rules then go on to spend a significant portion of their life studying those games, developing optimal strategies and figuring a variety of things out for themselves.

I’m not for a second saying that Madoris R has the depth or complexity of chess, mind — but what I am saying is that sometimes there is value to a game withholding a certain amount of information from the player, and leaving it for them to discover themselves. By working out things like this of their own volition, players will engage with the game on a deeper level — and be much more aware of the mechanics and systems at play than if they’d just been told about them through a dry screen of text. Plus, how many times have you found yourself frustrated at a game going too far in the other direction and making you go through a tutorial on something as fundamental as using the left stick on your controller to move around?

As I say, though, the beauty of Madoris R is, much like those classic board games, the fact that if you don’t want to engage with the game on a deeper level and instead just desire an enjoyably chilled-out experience based around some simple, easily understandable mechanics, you can.

The game’s simplistic but appealing visual presentation and hypnotic background music makes it ideal for just kicking back and relaxing with. Each game lasts long enough that it doesn’t feel like a completely disposable, forgettable experience, but at the same time it doesn’t demand hours of commitment for you to get the best out of your time with it. In other words, it’s an absolutely ideal game to have loaded on your Switch for when you’re out and about and want to while away a few minutes; I can see it being an ideal “coffee shop” game.

Is it an all-time classic destined to go down in the history books as the next great puzzler? Probably not. But it is enjoyable, and it is cheap, and it is well worth your time. And that’s all that really matters.

More about Madoris R

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