Rating : 9/10
A new take on the classic Tetris gameplay, Tricky Towers is a charming little game. Its cute magic theme allies with challenging and varied scenarios to create that “just one more level” feeling that can keep you hooked for hours… if you can resist a nigh-overwhelming urge to throw your monitor out the window.
A twist of the tried and true tile-matching formula, Tricky Towers forgoes the classic line clearing mechanic and focuses on building towers on a thin base while balancing up the pieces. Blocks are affected by physics, requiring you to properly stack them lest your construction crumble under the mighty thumb of Newton — gone are the walls protecting the sides present in other Tetris games; you can easily top a whole tower several tiles high with a couple of misplaced pieces.
Without screen boundaries, the game no longer ends when there is no space left to match tiles. Instead, Tricky Towers boasts three game modes in challenge or endless modes that can be played on single-player or multiplayer. “Survival” tasks you with building a tower as tall as you can without toppling it over. You have three hearts representing your health bar, and you lose one every time a piece falls over. “Puzzle” involves fitting a set number of tiles below the threshold of an energy beam, and if any block falls or reaches the beam, it’s game over. Lastly, a time trial mode has you build a tower until it reaches a certain height before the clock runs off.
The real kicker, however, comes from magic. Before each level, you can choose one out of a selection of cute little wizards. Once the match starts, the one you chose hovers on a cloud around the tower as you build it, reacting to the placed blocks with adorable noises of approval and excitement. Once certain milestones — mainly involving height — are reached, the wizard gains the ability to summon a random spell. Those range from simple tricks like removing the last placed block to game-changing enchantments such as settling the next block’s position in stone, making it impervious to the game’s physics. Those — along with the ability to shove blocks sideways — add a little tactical side to the game that can mean the difference between victory and defeat, and they make the game a bit more complex and interesting.
In the challenges, a rival AI constantly casts dark magic upon your sweet, unsettled construction — it can lock descending tiles and prevent you from rotating them or enlarge those pieces into supersized versions, throwing away all your carefully constructed equilibrium and sending half your tower into the water if you can’t adapt quickly enough.
Multiplayer and single-player share the same game mechanics, and online, Tricky Towers seemed healthy; I launched it around 1am on a Monday to take a couple more screenshots, and immediately someone joined my room within a second of creating it. As further testament to the game’s addictiveness, I intended to play one match to take said screenshots, but wound up spending 92 minutes in it.
The graphics are sweet, with its cartoon aesthetic composed of defined edges, round shapes, and very bright colours. Blocks have nice stone textures, backgrounds are quite dynamic and relaxing, and the little wizards are obscenely cute characters — the whole game has very good production values. I didn’t encounter any technical issues, either, and the gameplay was entirely bug-free.
As good as the art style is, though, the sound design is what steals the show. Blocks fall with a satisfying thud, countdowns are made of progressively higher pitched pings, and each magic enchantment has a different effect. But the spotlight, once more, falls to the wizards: they shout and clamor with enjoyment upon being chosen, like children on Christmas morning. Every block that falls in a good place is followed by a very hearty commemoration, and upon winning, your little wizard hovers around the tower from side to side and celebrates your victory. I never got tired of hearing a triumphant “That’s right!” upon placing a particularly tricky piece, or watching the wizard giggle and yell “Yeah!” for dozens of seconds instead of progressing to the next stage when completing a level. It’s just heartwarming and happy in a way that very few things are nowadays.
Each level has it’s own background, effects, and music, and they are quite good. Although the number of tracks is small and their durations short, the music will keep you humming its tunes long after the game has been closed — I found myself playing a couple of matches every now and then just to hear more of it.
All that awesomeness does have its darker side. The inherent challenge of a Tetris game is exacerbated by the added complications of a functioning and unrestricted physics system, and the difficulty involved in some challenges can be frustrating to some. While playing those challenges for the purposes of this review, my mind frequently wandered towards the defenestration of monitors through a nearby window.
With it’s unique blend of physics-based tetris and cartoon magic, Tricky Towers is a deeply engaging title. By adding physics to blocks, magical abilities, and catchy music, the game creates a pleasant atmosphere that never makes your stay feel unwelcomed. The cuteness of its wizards contributes immensely to the enjoyable tone of the game; and while unforgiving, the gameplay is never unfair — I plan to come back to this game often, but for now I’m glad this review is over. Otherwise, GameGrin will need to buy me a new monitor.
A blend of physics-based tetris and magic in a sweet little package makes this a must have for gamers of all ages and sizes.
Passionate, handsome, and just a tiny bit cocky, our resident Time Lord loves history, science, and all things that fall from the sky.