By Matt Carey
In 1984, in the Dorodnicyn Computing Centre of the Academy of Science of the USSR in Moscow, one Alexey Pazhitnov completed work on what was to become one of the biggest selling computer and video games of all time. When it launched on Nintendo’s original Gameboy, it practically established the hand-held console as a major player on its own, and has since gone on to sell somewhere in the region of 200 million copies across all platforms from the Gameboy, right up to mobile phones.
Since then, every man and his dog have attempted to replicate the success of Tetris, and there are thousands of clones and variants that have been released over the years that attempt to do just that, with varying degrees of success.
So, the next in line for a pop at the Tetris crown is Puzzlegeddon.
First thing to note is that a successful puzzle game doesn’t need to look good, but, this being the Xbox 360, Puzzlegeddon does. It’s fun, colourful, and yet doesn’t overcomplicate the game with meaningless clutter dotted around the screen. Everything you need to see can be seen.
And so, on to the game itself, stopping first at the handy tutorial to walk you through the whole thing works. You are presented with a grid made up of squares of varying colours. The premise is simple; match 5 colours or more together in any shape, and you clear them off the board, only for new ones to present themselves in their place, and the process is repeated. This is done simply by holding down a button and scrolling either a row or a column horizontally or vertically. Sometimes this is easy, sometimes the blocks are a little more jumbled. As blocks clear, those remaining fall into their place, and hopefully creating more blocks of five, and they disappear too.
Now, most puzzle games reward all this skill and luck with points. Not so Puzzlegeddon. I have explained the ‘puzzle’ aspect, but the use of ‘geddon’ in the title would lead to you believe that there is going to be some kind of battle. And you would be right. Instead of points, the clearing of the multicoloured blocks awards you a different kind of bonus. Above the grid you find four little meters, each one coloured in accordance with the colours of blocks in your grid. And sat above them, is you. Of these meters, two are dedicated to defence, and two are dedicated to attack.
So how does this work? Well, if you manage to clear some blue coloured blocks, for example, then the appropriately coloured meter starts to fill up. Each meter has 3 levels, and if you fill it to any one of those levels, you can release either an attack on your opponent – the little chappy sat at the bottom of the grid – or take defensive measures if he is trying to attack you. The higher up the meter you get, the better the attack or defensive measure you can use. So, the objective is not to score as many points as possible, but to knock the crap out of your polygonal opponent.
Needless to say, aside from the tutorial, we find a couple of offline modes, and the obligatory online multiplayer, which I would love to tell you about, except, I couldn’t find a game against anyone. I’m sorry. I tried, there was just no-one there. I would imagine that it could be quite good fun, but I just can’t comment.
The game itself is fun though. The puzzle aspect is not complicated in the slightest and, if anything, is probably too simple. The reason for this is obvious though; if the puzzling has been too complicated, then the combat aspect would make everything all too confusing. As it stands, the combat aspect skirts that thin line between making everything confusing and just about manageable. How so, I hear you ask. Well, as you match up your little blocks, everything is fine and dandy. Then you notice a rocket hurtling its way towards you. You have to stop with the grid, press a button and ‘up’ on your controller, and find what kind of defensive measure you want. To attack, the process is repeated, only this time, pushing in the direction of whoever you want to attack. This is all fine and dandy when in a one on one match, but against 3 opponents, things become more hectic and difficult
Now, I understand that this is where the challenge comes from; managing your resources that you attain against who to attack and making sure you don’t. That’s all fine. Unfortunately, things are a bit too complicated. To control your grid, you only need one button to whisk things around as you see fit, and one to actively clear them. This still leaves 6 buttons on the controller to use. As it stands, when you are highlighting your defence or attack options, then everything colour co-ordinated to your buttons, so you press red for attack, and so on. It could be easier. 3 opponents, 6 buttons. It can’t be that hard, surely. And I’m not even including the L3 and R3 buttons in that equation, or the d-pad. The title of the game is two separate words joined seamlessly together, but when actually playing the thing, then one element has to be stopped to allow the other element to take place. It isn’t seamless.
So, another puzzler takes a stab at the Tetris crown, and again, it falls short. What too many developers seem to forget is that Tetris was successful because it was simple. One button and a control pad was all that was needed. Some have remembered that. Puzzlegeddon has not. Whilst it is an interesting idea, and can actually be fun for a while, the limitations and complications in the design mean that this game loses its appeal rapidly. In Tetris terms, this is a square, when you really needed an L-Block.