Katamino Review – Board Game Quest

KataminoTake a game of Tetris, knock it over on its side, and you have Katamino. Well ok, not exactly, but it does have kind of the same feel to it. Brightly colored polyomino shapes that you are trying to fit into a rectangular area. Cue in some retro music and you’ve got all the nostalgia you could want.

Katamino is a solo pattern-building game that will have you trying to complete increasingly difficult puzzles.

Gameplay Overview:

Playing Katamino is super easy. The game comes with a board and 12 different shapes. The rulebook will give you 4 to start with and you need to place all 4 of those in the slotted section of the board, with no empty spaces. Do that, and you move the divider up one level and are given another piece. Repeat until you’ve placed all the pieces for the difficulty level.

Note, each time you move the divider up, you take all the pieces out and start anew. So it’s not just adding one piece, but figuring out how to fit all the pieces again.

Katamino Gameplay
Fit the pieces into the space. Sounds easier than it is.

Game Experience:

I kind of feel like I’ve been covering quite a few games lately that would fall into the “activity” category rather than game. While Katamino does have an end point (get to level top level of the chart), there is no score, competition, or really winning. It’s a solo, thinky puzzle that’s actually a lot harder than it looks.

Katamino Book
The book has many different difficulty levels.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fit all the shapes in perfectly (so I’ve thought), only to have one piece just not fit. Katamino is full of those “ah ha” moments when you finally get all the pieces to click, and is really satisfying when that happens. That being said, when you get past the intro levels, things can get pretty tricky. I’ve not solved much past the “Small Slams” as they call it, but as you get deeper into the challenges, things can get a a bit frustrating at times. There also aren’t any hints or solutions, so if you get stuck, your only option is to keep plugging away.

The game also comes with a 2-player mode, but it’s kind of tacked on. On the back of the rulebook is a 8×8 grid, and you just take turns placing pieces one at a time until someone can’t (Who loses). It only fits a handful of pieces and is over in a couple of minutes. I would not buy this game for multiplayer mode.

Katamino Storage
All the pieces fit in the frame for storage (and there is a helpful guid to do it).

Final Thoughts:

Katamino is fine for what it is and accomplishes what it sets out to do. That being said, it’s not very exciting and I’m just not sure how much staying power it has. It’s a solo game with a sub-par 2 player mode. But unless you are an abstract puzzle junkie, there are way better solo games to occupy your time.

I’d also be more interested in Katamino if I hadn’t previously played Katamino Family. This is a two player version of the game that, in my opinion, is just much better. The gameplay is largely the same, but it’s a head-to-head match where you are racing against your opponent to be the first to fit all your pieces. Once you do, you move the dividers up and keep going. I don’t think I’d ever pick up this version of Katamino over Katamino Family. That being said, Katamino is certainly a fine activity for those who like fitting shapes in boxes.

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