Friday, March 9, 2012

Colored Blocks are Falling Down

What do I like?

I like puzzle games that feature boxes! Whether it be boxes falling from the sky to save Mother Russia or boxes hell bent on rating your IQ, I've always had a very special place in my heart for deviations from the Rubik's Cube.

I've been wanting to write this for a long time and Pokemon Black is starting to get on my nerves. I want to talk about something I love. So, today I'd like to give you a top 7 best games that have involve both boxes and puzzles.

This one is kind of long so, hit dat jump!

7. Mario's Picross

Somehow I completely missed the Picross boat when it originally sailed. However, Club Nintendo recently started exchanging points for downloadable games (something that I've been writing in the comments of my surveys for years (it's about time!)). The original Gameboy release of Mario's Picross was available so I decided to give it a try. was like discovering Jay Retard after he died.

Picross works a lot like Sudoku. You are given numbers that indicate how many blocks there are in the row and using these clues you smash empty blocks to reveal an image. It's so very simple yet so very fun and since it's on the 3DS it's great for that quick little game fix that I'm perpetually itching for.

Chasing the pixelatted dragon.

My only complaint is that somewhere about half way through, the puzzles (which there are hundreds of)  get really hard really quickly. There is also a Picross 3D which is a little misleading considering it's just the game in 3 demensions and not in "eye-popping 3D".

Why would I want my eyes to pop?

6. Intelligent Qube

Back in 1998(ish) a friend of mine let me borrow his PlayStation and three games: Final Fantasy 7, Ghost in the Shell and Intelligent Cube. All three of which, land into my PS1 super game power team. However, Intelligent Qube really stood out because it's kind of a weird game.

In the spirit of Myst, you are a nameless individual set to reach a goal while boxes roll toward you. You must set traps and coordinate your movement as not to get crushed and make it to the end of the playing field. It's kind of like a minimalist version of Mouse Trap.

There's a sort of bleakness to the game that can be unnerving. While solving puzzles the ambiance makes you feel isolated, alone and in mortal danger. Oh, but what a relief when you complete the game and you are graded on how well you did in an intelligent quotient score.

Intelligent Qube captures what makes Silent Hill such a great game without all the throwing up of evil demigod fetuses...

Speaking of horror:

5. Catherine

Catherine is platform puzzle game revolving around a fellow named Vincent who is being seduced by the AMBER alert waiting to happen, Catherine but is currently engaged to hen-pecking Katherine. While this is going on Vincent is also having nightmares about having to climb towers within a set period of time or you'll be eaten by any number of horrifying things. See figure 1.

figure 1: Butt Monster (read: Oh dear god!)

This game has been somewhat polarizing for a lot of people. Some are turned off by how much of an anime it actually is. Some people don't like that there is incongruity between story and gameplay. But, you know what, I really liked it!

The writing is pretty good, especially for a videogame (it does falter pretty bad at the end were the "twist" is revealed). And the story does a good job of trying something different. However, what I liked most is the approach to box-based puzzling. I've never played a puzzler quite like Catherine but I'm glad I did.

4. Tetris Party

Two words: HOT LINES!!!

I know that it's a bit of a travesty to not simply love the classic game mode of the worlds most beloved Mother Russia exalting, space racing, efficient block stacking simulator. But, you know what, I like change. As someone who has been guilty of enjoying things back in the 90's that I'm now not so proud of, I like when a paradigm shifts.

Or at least wiggles around a little.

In Tetris Party there is a game mode called Hot Lines. In Hot Lines you have to complete lines at random heights. You compete with other people (preferably ones that are 1) drunk and 2) not as much a puzzle game nerd as you) to complete all the "hot lines" . Whoever finishes first (usually me) wins.

I know that I'm pretty partial to this game because I usually win. But whatever, as long as I'm having fun and I'm not killing babies or old people. I say it's a win/win/win/win...

No seriously, I kick ass at Hot Lines.

3. BoxLife

BoxLife (or HacoLife if you are Japanese (which your not because you're one of my dumb friends)) is an exercise in making a task that seems pretty boring and changing it ino something you'll do for hours: cut and fold boxes. As someone who worked in a print shop for a little while I can promise you work was never as fun as Box Life...

Except when we got that remote control helicopter that I got caught playing with it ALL THE TIME!

You are a worker whose job is to take a grid of paper and cut it into the 6 sides of a box, fold the box and send it on it's way. You are given a time limit and the categorical imperative that "waste is bad". You do as much as you can as quickly as you can as efficiently as you can.

When the round ends they tally how well you did and give you a paycheck. The better you get you are offered better paying positions to accumulate larger sums of money. You spend this money on decorating your house from which you start in the bowels of poverty and move your way up into the lap of luxury.

Is it a lie? Is this how life actually works? If I work hard then I'll be rewarded for the sweat of my brow? Hell no! But it's also a game and in games you find money in floating blocks you punch from below.

2. Super Puzzle Fighter II

Puzzle Fighter falls into a category all it's own. Let me level with you, I don't really like Dr. Mario style puzzle games. Games like Puyo Pop or Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine never really rang my bell however (for some reason I cannot explain) I love Puzzle Fighter.

In Puzzle Fighter colored gems fall from the top of the screen and you maneuver similar colors to create large gems. There is also a second gem type that destroy the gem of similar color. This is how you attack the other player. The larger the gem you create and thusly destroy the stronger the attack. Depending on which charater you chose (always Hsien-Ko) patterns of gems will fall on the other players game area.

Which is different than a bathroom area...

Well, maybe not.

1. PictoBits

Where do I start with this one?

First of all, this game was the sole reason I bought a DSi. Why? Because of YMCK, a chiptune group from Japan that, in my humble opinion, all things that are good and pure in the universe came from. To put this into perspective, Family Genesis is in my top 5 best albums of all time riding shotgun to albums like Justice's † and Modest Mouse's Lonesome Crowded West.

PictoBits is a difficult game to explain how to play. My girlfriend has watched over my shoulder and always comments, "I have no idea what your doing." I'll try to nutshell as best I can: colored blocks fall from the top of the screen, you use the DS's stylus to move similarly colored blocks from the bottom of the screen to complete "bits" which move to the top screen to eventually form an image.

Just watch this video...

It makes sense to me.

Because this game has a old-school 8-bit style, YMCK was a natural choice for the music which consist of remixed version of songs from which the puzzle is themed. In the time I've owned a DS the only game that I've enjoyed as much as PictoBits would be Cave Story or maybe even the Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box. If you have a DS system it's a must-have.

I couldn't recommend it enough.

Talk to you soon when I return with A Journey Into Darkness: That ****** Cave!

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