Asobu Tights: Puzzle Lesson is a game that is best thought of as a digital artbook that happens to have a fun puzzler attached to it. And it’s an excellent example of how artists can use perhaps unexpected forms of media to share and celebrate their work.
The digital age has brought with it many things, both good and bad, but I think one thing we can all agree on is that the democratisation of art has been wonderful to see.
Not only do we have easier access to the work of talented artists from all over the world than ever before, the freedom of expression of the Internet has empowered people to be more honest and open about the sort of art they like — even if those tastes lie in the realm of the sexually suggestive, provocative or outright pornographic.
One artist who has risen to prominence through this whole process is Yom, who specialises in drawing beautiful girls wearing tights, a favourite subject of all of us here at Rice. Over the last few years, Yom has become known for his Kuro Tights art and publications based on tights-wearing high schoolers as well as his more recent “office lady”-themed series Ganbare, Douki-chan. The former ended up adapted into the short-form anime Miru Tights, which had far higher production values than I think anyone ever expected from a shamelessly fetishistic ecchi anime.
Now, we have Asobu Tights: Puzzle Lesson, a video game for Nintendo Switch based on Miru Tights. And rather than being an ecchi visual novel as you might expect, it’s instead a surprisingly solid — if somewhat unoriginal — puzzle game in which the more you play, the more of Yom’s artwork you unlock. It even includes the entirety of the Miru Tights anime for you to watch at your leisure — though there’s a bit of a caveat in this regard that we’ll get onto in a moment.
The basic gameplay of Asobu Tights: Puzzle Lesson will be familiar to anyone who has played a “match-three” puzzler in the last twenty years: pick a coloured icon (a chibi face in this case), swap it with an adjacent piece to make a horizontal or vertical line of three or more like-coloured icons which then disappear, repeat.
Rather than playing endlessly or presenting you with discrete “puzzles” to solve, Asobu Tights: Puzzle Lesson adopts a level-based structure in which you have a time limit in which to eliminate a certain number of pieces of each colour on the board. Successful matches reward you with additional time, with bigger time bonuses being awarded for combos, chain reactions and matches of more than three pieces at a time. Get into a position where there are no possible moves and the board will automatically shuffle; the only way to lose is to run out of time.
It’s to Asobu Tights: Puzzle Lesson’s credit that it manages to make use of one of the most overused, oversaturated styles of gameplay out there without feeling like a cheap, shitty mobile game. Rather than adopting short-form levels with star ratings and purchasable power-ups, Asobu Tights: Puzzle Lesson feels much more like a classic, simple, arcade-style puzzle game in which your aim is to get as far as possible and score as many points as possible. And that means that skilled players will actually be able to keep a game going for quite some time without running out of lives, energy or any other such mobile game-style obnoxiousness.
Score actually feels meaningful in Asobu Tights: Puzzle Lesson, since it not only translates to the in-game currency you can use to purchase the various pieces of artwork and unlock the anime episodes, but also serves as a means of quantifying how good you are at the game. Weirdly, the game does lack a built-in high score feature, however, so it’s up to you to keep track of your own records if you want to try and beat yourself. So to speak.
The lack of this feature is one of a few symptoms that Asobu Tights: Puzzle Lesson could have done with just a little more polish, particularly for its localised release, because although Yom’s artwork is as beautiful as one would expect and the puzzle gameplay is solid and addictive, there are a few rough edges here and there.
Notably, Asobu Tights: Puzzle Lesson’s gameplay includes a music loop that, while catchy, is far too short and thus becomes frustratingly repetitive after a short period of play. It would have been nice to hear a wider selection of music, perhaps looping round a selection of 5-10 different tracks or so as you progress through the levels. The music itself is inoffensive enough, so if you don’t mind repetition it’s not a major problem — and you can always mute it in the options if it does bother you — but it feels like a bit of a missed opportunity.
Another symptom of the game’s lack of polish in its localised release is the complete lack of any sort of proper word wrapping on the text descriptions in the menus — most clearly seen in the descriptions of the various anime episodes available in the game. Again, this isn’t a dealbreaker by any means, but it does look rather sloppy, particularly when surrounded by the otherwise slick and well-presented user interface of the game as a whole.
Probably the most egregious issue with the localised release, however, is that the 12 Miru Tights anime episodes included with the game completely lack subtitles. While admittedly most people watching Miru Tights are probably doing so to look at the pretty girls and their pretty feet, there is some worthwhile characterisation and narrative throughout the series as a whole — and if you don’t speak Japanese, that side of things will be almost completely lost on you, which is a real shame, as having a complete digital copy of Miru Tights on one’s Switch would otherwise be a huge selling point for this game.
All of these things could be easily fixed with a patch, and none of them should be considered an outright dealbreaker as to whether or not you should pick this game up. It’s just a bit of a shame that the package as a whole just lacks that little bit of polish to make it the beautiful interactive celebration of Yom’s art that it should be.
As it stands, it’s a good example of how a video game can be used as a form of “interactive artbook”, where engaging with the “game” side of things allows you to explore the “art” side more deeply. I’d love to see more of this kind of thing — and I’d especially love to see this get some form of packaged release. Imagine a nice box set containing a selection of Yom books, perhaps a wall scroll, a soundtrack CD from the anime and this game!
I can dream, huh?
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