Updated: Puckerz! Review

Three months after its initial release Puckerz! has finally received an update. And while it’s not enough to bump up the score, it’s still rather substantial and definitely adds a lot to the game. The new, remastered version of the game features a slick new menu system and enhanced visuals for those with a retina display. The levels have also been tweaked and feel fuller and more fun to play in. But more importantly there are two new gameplay modes and a nifty new progression system.

The first time you play a level things remain as they always have been: you have two minutes to clear as many orbs and blocks as possible. But once you complete that stage you unlock a new mode to play through, where you’ll have just 10 seconds to clear as many as you can. The twist is that as you clear away orbs time will be added to the clock, so it’s important to make each shot count for as much as possible since you have such limited time. Then, once you complete the time trial mode, you’ll unlock a third way to play through the stage: sudden death. You don’t have to worry about time in this mode, but if you fire any shot that doesn’t hit anything at all it’s game over.

In practice the two new modes are really only small tweaks to the formula, but they provide a nice incentive to replay stages multiple times. Instead of just getting a high score, completionists now have to worry about getting three stars for each level. So while it may not bring new players to the game, this update ensures that existing fans will be able to wring out even more puck flinging fun out of the package.

With a name like Puckerz!, it’s pretty easy to look past this game. The Z and exclamation point at the end of the title make it feel like a game that’s desperate to sound edgy and cool. But if you manage to look past the unfortunate name, Puckerz! is a surprisingly fun and engaging arcade-style puzzle game.

If you crossed the peg-eliminating gameplay of Peggle with air hockey, Puckerz! is what you’d come up with. The goal in each level is to eliminate at least 80 percent of the pegs and dots before the timer runs out, which is accomplished by flinging a puck around.

Smile, you got an achievement.

And this couldn’t be easier. The controls consist of nothing more than pulling back on the puck and releasing to launch it. The further you pull back, the further it will go.

It’s a simple concept, but things become increasingly more complicated as you make your way through the game’s 30 stages. You’ll come across holes, much like in air hockey, and if your puck falls into one the timer will decrease. There are pinball-style bumpers, power-ups that make you go faster, land mines that explode a few moments after you touch them, and much more.

The power-ups and obstacles help to keep the otherwise basic formula interesting, as does the increasingly complicated level design. The stages get bigger, the obstacles increase in number, and the number of pegs you need to clear away gets larger.

I’m beside myself.

Beating most stages isn’t all that complicated, though there is an element of luck that can make things a tad frustrating. But the real challenge comes from mastering each level. The difference between completing 80 percent of a level and 100 percent is huge, and the addition of Game Center and OpenFeint leaderboards and achievements adds to the addictive nature.

In terms of presentation, Puckerz! is somewhat nondescript. It uses the glowy, abstract art style popularized by the Geometry Wars series, coupled with a thumping techno soundtrack and robotic-sounding effects. It looks and sounds good, even if it’s not particularly original. You also get a choice of several different pucks to use, which sport different colors and images. The art here isn’t necessarily bad, but it really doesn’t fit with the rest of the game. It kind of looks like you’re tossing around POGs in a game of GeoWars.

But style issues aside, Puckerz! is a great pick-up-and-play experience that has that same ‘just one more turn’ draw as Peggle. The controls are intuitive, and the difficulty curve is just gradual enough to keep you engaged without being frustrated. If you’re a completionist, or the kind of person for whom high scores are important, Puckerz! is great for small bursts of play. You’ll just have to look past that ridiculous name.

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