REVIEW: Tricky Towers [PC,PS4]

Tricky Towers, from the excellently named WeirdBeard Games, combines the tetronimo-based gameplay of Tetris with a physics engine and an array of diabolical twists. My hand is almost too sore from playing the game to write these words.

Ostensibly about competing magicians trying to create the most impressive constructions, Tricky Towers features a cutesy, cartoonish art style with a sound scheme to match. Sparkly, tinkly noises abound and escaping out of menus sounds like one of the tiny magicians has broken wind.

Singleplayer is split into two modes, a series of trials and an endless survival mode. The trials are all handcrafted challenges, where blocks must be stacked to a certain height within a time limit, stacked to fit under a certain height or a given number of blocks stacked with no more than three falling off. The more you complete, the harder the challenges become.

The endless mode is similar to one of the trials, in that you can have no more than three tumbles but the blocks will keep falling from the sky forever. There’s a leaderboard attached to this mode, so you can measure yourself against the rest of the world, or just your friends list. Yours truly was ranked eighth, but then there was only WeirdBeard and a few other outsiders on the board at the time.

While playing singleplayer there’s a selection of spells you can cast at various stages. Tangling vines can hold some blocks together, a magical outcropping provides a stable building spot where once there was thin air. One spell makes the next block immovable after landing on the tower, providing a stable spot to build further or pinning the structure for additional stability.

It’s in multiplayer these spells really come into their own, with the helpful spells supplemented with less than helpful spells to inflict on your opponents. Try tethering a balloon to another mage’s block, making it much slower to drop. Create a floaty bubble around their last placed block causing it to begin floating away, potentially knocking others loose on the way.

Multiplayer can be played by up to four people, locally or over the internet. The modes on offer are the same as those in the trials, just competitive in nature. The puzzle equivalents, where you must stack X bricks under a cutoff point, turn instead into who can stack the most below the line. Reaching a certain height is a race, first to the top wins. And the survival mode knocks magicians out when they run out of lives.

Most of the difficulty in the game comes from the addition of physics to the standard Tetris-like gameplay. On easier difficulties you can balance the standard straight line block on its end with no drama. Two? Maybe, if the wind isn’t blowing. Higher difficulties can whip the wind up much faster, toppling a single line block or even an L-shape. A modifier can make blocks icy and, consequently, slippery. A slightly angled build will have those sliding off the edges.

Another modifier locks the orientation of the block, which is tricky enough when playing standard tetronimo-based games. Some blocks just aren’t designed to balance in their default orientation, so they fall over and provided slanted surfaces to make the building process even more fraught. Better hope for an immovable block spell to create a new, level surface!

As if balancing these blocks wasn’t hard enough the game will also throw supersized versions down. Try balancing a triple large L-shape on the highest point of your tower. In a raging gale. On your last life.

Tricky Towers can be devilishly difficult. Half the time it feels like the game has beaten you and half the time you admit it’s really your own fault that everything went wrong. You’re useless at this game, useless!

That’s probably just me, the less-than-stellar player of tetronimo games. You are probably a lot better at this sort of thing and should probably give Tricky Towers a try. It’s an enjoyably different, modern take on an old stalwart of gaming.

Tricky Towers is available now on PC and Playstation 4.

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