This game is as simple as just flipping all the panels to face up. Can you pass all the stages and add the girls' illustrations to the gallery?
Kohei Gallery is shaping up to be one of the better and more consistent Developers on XNA today with two back to back excellent releases in Shooting Chicken Revenge and now ???? (Moe Mekuri). "Moe" is Japanese slang for the familiar doe-eyed girls prevalent in games and animation from that country, and Moe Mekuri allows the players to disrobe ten girls via turning over tiles on a board. The game has no nudity whatsoever, but the girls do shed their excess clothing over the course of the three difficulty levels until they're wearing little more than a bikini. Here's hoping that this text serves more as a review and recommendation and less as a eulogy as Microsoft's heavy handed enforcement of context on Xbox Indies, particularly anything remotely sexual related coming out of Japan, would make the game a likely target for its wrath. These are still pictures of cartoon girls, and I'd hate for one of the independent platform's better games to get yanked on account of showing a bit of cleavage as swimwear is wont to do.
Potential concerns about the viability of the title remaining available on the system aside, Moe Mekuri is an excellent tile flipping game with a surprising amount of depth and challenge in its 30 puzzles. While the first handful of puzzles will go down easily, special tiles are quickly introduced which turn the game into a real brain teaser. Blue framed tiles will flip twice when clicked to reset itself, green tiles flip the entire adjacent row and column its own, and gray tiles cannot be clicked and must be overturned by "reaching in" with another tile. Every normal tile clicked with the floating hand flips itself and the four adjacent tiles; it's a popular puzzle design made mindbendingly difficult at times thanks to the introduction of these altered tiles and an ever expanding board which introduces more and more squares to manage with each new difficulty level. The player is free to skip around to any of the girls should he or she get stumped, but the game will not advance to the next difficulty until all ten puzzles are solved. While players are given all the time in the world to mess around on the grid to see what works and what does not, advancing means finding a solution that will work within the limited amount of steps allowed.
Moe Mekuri is a gorgeous game, beautifully illustrated with great high definition artwork. Everything looks wonderful and sharp, and details such as how the square animates when hovered over with the cursor are not lost on the player. Everything's so shiny and colorful with its clean graphics and user friendly interface. The girls themselves look great as well, although the "moe" style could be off-putting to some I suppose. Most of the girls look innocent and cheerful with only two or three I'd consider sexualized due to suggestive posing. It's a harmless game by and large, though if the game does get pulled from the marketplace, I would chalk it up to the the eighth girl's camel toe panty shot or her successor's normal difficult image having her losing her summer dress with bandages covering her nipples. There's no doubt that the artwork here is designed to appeal to a certain demographic, but none of it would merit anything beyond a PG-rating nor gets in the way of a fully enjoyable puzzle game, cute bikini-clad girls or otherwise.
The robust options menu includes a language selector (Japanese or English), a tutorial and flip test, a gallery, and a full music test complete with the option to mute the vocals on the four sung tracks which play during the game. The soundtrack deserves special menu as the six songs are all excellent pop arrangements, particularly the vocal ones. "Pure," "Love Potion," "HONEY TRAP," and "Love prison" are all cute, light pop ditties despite what the titles may imply to those familiar with the seedier side of Japanese gaming. My one gripe with the vocal songs is that they sound heavily auto-tuned, and while that alone doesn't stop me from liking them, it can be a bit much over time. I do wish the songs wouldn't restart with each puzzle as well, although that's only a nuisance during the first few easy levels until the player runs into the wall and spends far, far more time searching for a solution.
Moe Mekuri is distinctly Japanese, but its appeal lay in the strong puzzle design which feels familiar but so much more challenging. The user friendly design, wonderful graphics and music, and terrific challenge make it a real find for puzzle game fans. Moe Mekuri is strongly recommended, and players interested should consider buying the game immediately if it remotely interests them just in case Microsoft decides to pull the game back behind its Puritan veil. The harmless summer beach theme is not the draw nor simple titillation the reason to buy what is one of the best puzzle titles on the system.