Tagged: puzzle

Done Playing: Tetris Twist (Browser)

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I’ve been a little fixated on Tetris lately so I gave the announcement of Tetris Twist more than my passing oh-they-made-a-new-one reaction. It’s also free and browser-based and built in HTML5 so there’s no need to install a dubious plug-in. That makes for a pretty low barrier to entry. Unfortunately, the biggest “twist” in Tetris Twist is the mobile gamification built around the classic gameplay, despite not being playable on a mobile device. I present the evidence:

Exhibit A: a sprawling world map of bite-size stages
Exhibit B: a 3-star rating system based on score
Exhibit C: excessive ads

What this amounts to are 90-second sessions of Tetris bookended with a commercial or sometimes a blank box where a commercial should be that requires you to refresh the entire page. This goes on and on in chunks of 20 stages, each based around a new city with a new gameplay element. The first “world” introduces score cells that sometimes force you to fill up the well with junk on purpose to reach and clear them. The combination of pre-set garbage lines and score cells adds just a little strategy to the familiar game of Tetris.

There are promises of intriguing mechanics like Gravity Mode and Hourglass Mode that I’d like to see but they’re buried behind constant commercial breaks and a finicky new control scheme. Also very mobile-centric, the default controls use only the mouse and two buttons to play. Left click drops, right click swaps out your Hold piece and there is no rotation control. Instead, the silhouette of your rapidly sinking piece “sticks” in different configurations as you move the mouse around. It enables faster play and makes risky T-Spins effortless but it fails when the speed ramps up or precision placement becomes critical. Lo and behold there are classic keyboard controls which the game never points out but the mouse is what it was clearly designed around.

Like so many other free-to-play iterations on classic franchises (I’m lookin’ at you Plants vs Zombies Adventures and SimCity Social), Tetris Twist has me torn up. I liked playing it, even with the funky new control scheme, but the constant interruptions and brief stages turned me away before I could get to the interesting new parts. But you don’t have to take my word for it, Levar, because it’s free! Try it for yourself and let me know if it gets any better after Stage 40.

Done Playing: Open Me! (Vita)

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The concept of Augmented Reality games always grabs me but seeing sharp 3D visuals overlaid on grainy, laggy camera feeds usually proves too jarring to be fun. Open Me! has had to fight those expectations as well as coming out of the PlayStation C.A.M.P. program whose past efforts disappointed me. Knowing this going in I tried to ease that expectant sting by grabbing the game on sale and promising to play just a little bit at a time. It worked, and I’ve come out the other side wishing there were more boxes to open and more people who gave this game a chance.

AR comes with a lot of caveats before you even get to the game itself. The Vita’s camera just isn’t that good and you have to search for your own personal space for it to work well. Having played through it I picture the ideal location as a bright, empty art gallery with the AR card attached to a black, waist-high pedestal. My best bet was our chest-high kitchen counter under a heavy fluorescent light. The brightness kept the lag at bay but the glare on the glazed surface frequently made the Vita lose track of the card. The kitchen also made it hard to get all the way around the boxes and there were plenty of times I was leaning over the sink or past the drying rack to find a crucial, hidden clue.

But again, Open Me’s charms won out. Presented with only a screen or two of explanation you’re flung at 51 puzzle cubes and expected to figure them out on your own. A sense of exploration and experimentation will do you well here as you poke and swipe while skittering around; one hand holding the Vita, the other scratching your head. Here’s a hot tip from me: sometimes you just need to move on. By figuring out other boxes — some are tricky while others require more logical thinking — you will come to discover things that will help you progress. The Vita, it turns out, can track way more than just two fingers.

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It’s one of those games where you don’t want to say too much because the fun is in discovering the solution, but I’ll go ahead and spoil a few of my favorites. The Super Stealth Box is covered in spikes that are tough to discern from the one random button as the whole thing is Predator-style transparent. I ended up moving a pair of cards that were sitting on the counter in and out of view, looking at the distortion until I spotted the smooth, curved button. The Surveillance Box is equipped with a motion tracking camera that won’t let you sneak behind it to pull the shiny handle. I tried to figure it out for ten minutes when, in frustration, I smashed my fat thumb over the stupid camera and… oh come on, I can’t believe that was the solution! Late in the game there’s a fantastically complex washing machine that needs three cycles run just to find the owner’s manual.

Opening a few boxes each day and taking a break when I got to the really fiendish ones, I’d say I had a few weeks of fun with Open Me!. There are multiplayer boxes to open and a system to design and send puzzles to friends but both require knowing someone (in real life) who owns a Vita and the game. Needless to say, I didn’t get to try out either mode. You can get a feel for the game in the free version and buy individual packs for $0.99 but if you’ve read this far and are still intrigued you should buy the Full Game. It’s not as mysterious and chic as The Room but Open Me! has just as many ah-ha moments of rewarding discovery. It’s got that quirky design sensibility you only get from the Japanese on top of the (tolerably janky) novelty of using your AR cards again.

One more parting shot

One more parting shot

Dig out your AR Cards, the 3DS has a new puzzle game

While VR constantly seems on the verge of exploding into the next big thing, AR continues to be a seldom seen diversion. I blame it on cameras: the Vita and 3DS have the worst cameras but that’s where interesting AR games keep happening.

The latest is the one you see above, Bubble Pop World, out now on the 3DS eShop for $4.99. For all the flashy features the video shows they don’t really explain how the main puzzle-popping mechanic works. It seems to be a mix of Bust-a-Move and Poppit! with the ability to move around the 3D model and insert the next colored blob wherever you’d like.

It’s got 120 puzzle and arcade levels built in with the ability to create and share your own via QR codes (another maligned AR technology!) as well as 8 underwater themed minigames. I’ve still got some cash left in my Mario Wallet (or whatever they call it on the eShop); I may have to give this a shot!

A clever, free guessing game based on emoji

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I don’t really play mobile games anymore but every now and then I come across one that does something clever. Utilizing iOS’ built-in emoji character set you guess at the names of 470 words, titles and phrases in hangman style. We all already send these stupid picture messages to one another so why not an actual guessing game based on them? The only thing better would be if it were a ‘with Friends’ or Draw Something style game that you could play directly with friends. Oh yeah, Guess Emoji is free on iOS right now.

Wonderful wishes from Treasures of Montezuma

What have I played the most on the Vita? Without a doubt it’s Treasures of Montezuma Blitz. Even if it doesn’t take the cake for total hours played it’s the one game I’ve come back to nearly every single day. Nearly, because I’ve seen this wonderfully engrish-y screen a few times since I started playing in October and it warms my heart whenever it pops up.

So rarely does a game hope that I’m doing ok, like it may actually worry about me if I were to stop playing. Mario never asked if I was alright. Sonic? Pffft, he’s too busy to even think about me. But Monetezuma’s there for me and I’ll be there for it… at least until I get all those trophies. I’m getting so close!