Tag Archives: puzzle

Magical Tetris Challenge — 1Q2017

Magical Tetris Challenge-11When Tetris’ and Disney’s worlds collide

by Lyndsey Hicks
by Lyndsey Hicks

Messing with an old and universally loved favorite such as Tetris is a risky proposition. You can get it right or mess it up horribly, where it is forever known as the “messed up version of Tetris.” Luckily, Magical Tetris Challenge by Capcom manages to dodge that label and add a few elements to the main game to refresh an older title.
Magical Tetris is, at its core, a fun game with lots of charm to spread around. There are multiple modes to choose from and the variety helps the replay factor long after the novelty of comboing wears off. The story mode is the other mode most played at GI, and is based off the new Magical Tetris mode. While I’m not fond of the cliffhanger by difficulty level method, the story is serviceable and moves the action forward with a nice added Disney touch. Mainstays such as Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy fill out the cast, though you can only play as these four.
Magical Tetris earns its bread and butter in the way it builds on the Tetris formula. With Tetris in the name and designed to appeal to a mass audience using that, Magical Tetris starts out with the basics: Create and clear lines using seven letter-shaped pieces. Clear four lines and you get a Tetris.
Ah, but herein lies the additions to Magical Tetris and where the basics end and advanced play begins: For every line cleared, a small amount of energy is added to a magic meter. Fill up the magic meter and you get what we’ve termed at GI as a breakdown: All pieces restructure to create a neat space and a large portion of the well where your pieces fall is wiped clean. Also, clearing lines creates combos, which can be countered until a piece is shaped 10 by 10. Combos and counters creates a back and forth, during which oddly shaped pieces are created and fall into the play field. By setting up the pieces in a decent shape in your well, you can achieve what is called a pentris, or five lines cleared
simultaneously.
Score-4-retrogradeComboing and countering makes the gameplay fun and adds an increasing level of competitiveness and urgency to every match. Even if you’re not the most Tetris-competent gamer, Magical Tetris does an excellent job inviting all skill levels in to learn and get better. The basics are quickly explained and the advanced techniques are made plain as you go along. That helps in the frantic atmosphere of a spirited two-player human match, where anything and usually everything can happen.
The game shines in its visuals, which benefit from that Disney touch. The game is bright and colorful and designed in the way of Disney games and animation, meaning it’s top-notch through and through. The graphics are still good for an N64-era game and haven’t aged badly. The soundtrack has aged well, too, and is still one of the best of the era. Each character’s stage is memorably themed and stands out enough for you to remember it well after your game is over.
Having played the majority of the Tetris spinoffs and creations out on the market for the past 30 years, I need to have something that pushes me to play. Magical Tetris succeeds in adding to the Tetris formula just enough to buy its way in to my library and stick around through charm and ability. This is an excellent Tetris spin job.

Bust-A-Move — 1Q2017

Bust A Move-12Puzzle Bobble’s breakout hit

by Lyndsey Hicks
by Lyndsey Hicks

Bubble Bobble isn’t super famous last I checked, but I learned who Bub and Bob were by the time I finished their first puzzle effort for the Super NES, the mid-90s appropriately named Bust-A-Move.
There’s much fun and mirth to be had in the bubble-popping title. There’s not much story other than Bub and Bob are popping bubbles to save a friend, who is trapped at the end (level 100). Once their friend is saved, that’s it. But, that’s assuming you can make it that far.
Bust-A-Move is incredibly simple to play but hard to master. The concept is easy to understand: aim a launcher and match three like-colored bubbles. The bubbles will fall off the playing field, clearing space and rows so that you can work toward clearing further bubbles. After a certain number are cleared, the ceiling of the well lowers, inching closer to a visible line. Once the line is crossed with a bubble, the game is over. Basically, it’s reverse Tetris with bubbles instead of lines. The trickiness in mastering the game comes in popping the bubbles. There are different techniques to achieving the results that you want, but it really comes down to knowing how to aim and learning the fabled bankshot off the side of the well.
Score-3-5-retrogradeWith its simplicity in learning, Bust-A-Move quickly distinguishes itself as fun to play. I requested the game for my 14th birthday and I’ve had a blast playing the original since. There are other games in the series, but this one is the best out of all of the sequels and spinoffs of the series. The controls aren’t too stiff, though sometimes I have complaints about the particular way a bubble bounces or sticks a little too easily to the first bubble it comes close to. Yet, the controls aren’t horrible.
The simple theme also shows in the graphics. Bust-A-Move is one of the brightest and cutest games I’ve ever played. The colors pop and while you’re using colored bubbles, they don’t necessarily interfere with the background graphics, which could make for a confusing play field.
Bust-A-Move also gets a nod for its attention paid to other modes such as Challenge and the two-player bubble popping. Challenge is fun and a good test of skills: You’re tasked with popping as many bubbles as you can before it’s game over. It’s hard to pop a lot if you’re new to the game, but as your skills progress, you can and will see a difference in how long you manage to last. The two-player mode is fun also, because you can either play against the computer or against another human player. Any game that gives me the option to play two-player against the computer automatically gets a nod because that injects longevity into a title immediately.
There’s a decent amount of depth to Bust-A-Move and it certainly makes for an interesting puzzle distraction on the SNES. It’s worth exploring the bubble-popping world with the original bubble eliminator.