There are many signs of a good game, and one is discovering that you’ve lost an hour playing without realizing it. Puzzlejuice has that immediate effect. From the moment you open the app, play the quick tutorial, and enter the world of puzzle-block and word-tile madness, you’re hooked. Puzzlejuice is an enveloping world of gorgeous design, funky music, and falling blocks that you can’t help but fall in love with.
There is an inherent problem with the basics of Puzzlejuice: they aren’t basic at all. At first, the game appears to be nothing but a Tetris clone. Falling blocks settle on the bottom of your screen, and you must manage them in a neat fashion to prevent them from overtaking. However, there is a twist. When you fill an entire line with blocks, rather than clearing your screen, they change from colored blocks to letters.
And the words came tumbling down.
The letters must be cleared by forming words using adjacent letters. Each word must be at least three letters, but forming words clears not just those chosen tiles, but also nearby tiles. Sounds simple, right? Not quite. Remember, you still have blocks falling from the top of the screen. You must manage both at once.
On top of all of this, you must also try to use the colors of the blocks to your advantage. Each falling block shape can be made up of smaller squares of a various colors. If you have three blocks that are touching each other, you can tap on them to ‘pop’ them. Popping turns them from simple blocks to letter tiles, even if that line isn’t completed yet. Popping can give you extra letters you might need to help form a word.
When you begin playing, you are also given objectives. Completing these objectives will earn you power-ups, like Kabomb and Freeze, to help you combat the oncoming storm of falling blocks. Once earned, these power-ups will be attached to falling blocks. Once a line is cleared with a power-up in it, it is activated. There are several power-ups to unlock, but you can only have three total. You must choose wisely.
The actual controls of the game are rudimentary. You drag right and left to position your block. A shadow on the bottom of the screen shows you where that block will end up, and you can drag down to pull the block quickly into place. Tapping anywhere on the screen rotates the block. For the letter tiles, you must drag your finger over the chosen letters.
With all of the mayhem of dragging blocks while searching for hidden words, the touch controls can sometimes get confused. It’s easy to accidentally drag down a block when you meant to select a letter. On an iPad, the extra real estate makes it less likely to perform the wrong action, but you must still be extra careful to avoid throwing a game.
The ‘Hard Mode,’ which is actually the easy mode, is slow enough for non-puzzle aficionados to play comfortably. There is also ‘Euro Extreme Mode,’ which ramps up the difficulty by only clearing tiles after a word of five or more letters. You can also choose ‘Zen Mode,’ in which you must get as high a score as possible in 90 seconds.
One quick tip: you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t play Puzzlejuice with headphones. The 8-bit tunes are wonderful and will absolutely add to the feel of this game.
Puzzlejuice is fantastic. It’s a game that can be played in a hardcore marathon session, or simply for a few minutes while you’re waiting to catch a flight. No matter which device you play it on it looks wonderful, and it strikes the perfect combination of block and word puzzles to keep you challenged.