Adapting Tetris gameplay for modern players is a tough task. The classic block-puzzle game has such a perfect loop to its gameplay that it can be tough to remix it into something fresh. Tricky Towers attempts this, and nearly succeeds.
Introducing physics to the common shapes introduces a new way of viewing the slowly descending madness, but also can become frustratingly unpredictable in their nature, and heightens the frustration of randomized drops. The L-shaped block can hang off of a ledge with a single square piece, but don’t expect the almost-Z shape to provide a solid base despite its firm center.
Despite that complaint, Tricky Towers has a good spin on the usual Tetris formula. Instead of hard-locking the familiar four-block shapes into their various combinations, Tricky Towers adds weight and balance to them. It expands on the columns, introducing half-steps, and widens the playing field by breaking down the familiar walls. This lets players mess around with creating a wobbly tower of mismatched shapes, as well as unrestricted access to the width of the screen. While the latter won’t truly come into play that much, the former is both a fun twist and frustrating inclusion.
For the most part, a majority of Tricky Towers’ gameplay modes rely on luck of the draw. Trials, a major portion of the single player, is broken into modes that require you to beat the clock by stacking shapes into a tower that reaches a predetermine area. This mode forces you to have a laser for a certain height, which then allows you to mix and match shapes so you don’t get eliminated. Lastly, the final mode has an opposing magician sabotaging your blocks with various spells that enlarge them, restrict you from rotation, or introduce large buildings with entirely new perimeters.
The only puzzle that always contains predetermined sets of blocks is the Puzzle mode. In every other mode, your blocks are in a randomized order, meaning one playthrough could have the perfect combination of pieces that perfectly fit together, or could be a series of blocks that tumble and fall off the edge, reducing your wizard’s hearts until he vanishes in a puff of smoke. Before you begin each Race mode you are shown the opposing wizards tower, which will often consist of diagonal blocks salvaged to somehow form a new foundation. I never was able to pull that off, as each time a block refused to align at some form of a ninety-degree angle, it meant disaster.
Tricky Towers’ three modes are what you play through both in local and online battles, as well as the aforementioned trials. For local battle, you can have up to three other friends join you on the couch to duke it out. For this mode, unlike single player, you can use dark magic against your opponent, using the same spells that previously restricted your ability to adapt. You also still have access to light magic, spells that help you by causing vines to wrap blocks together or turn a block into solid stone for a stable base.
This is the mode that is very obviously the heart of Tricky Towers, as causing your friends’ towers to topple due to a well timed spell cannot be replicated by breaking through a tough trial, or doing the same move online against a faceless online foe. It is best experienced in short bursts as well, due to the limited modes and the temperament of your group.
The other single player option is Endless mode, in which you score points by successfully stacking blocks on top of each other. The leader board tracks how many blocks you placed, not how many solid lines you created or how high your tower reached. Much like the Survival mode, sometimes a dark magic spell will appear to hinder your progress. These increase in occurrence and intensity as you get farther along with your overall number of placed blocks, causing a standard incline of difficulty you would expect in any survival-based mode.
I presume online battle is the same as local battle except with others over the internet. I say presume because I could not find a match despite choosing the default settings for matchmaking: Random mode and normal difficulty. Swapping up the match settings didn’t help me find parties either. The game is still in pre-release, and the leaderboard for Endless mode shows that people are indeed playing the game somewhere; I just don’t know when or where.
The trials in Tricky Tower can significantly extend your game time due to their difficulty and quantity. However, beyond that single player option you can either engage in battles against friends locally or online, or try to see how many blocks you can stack in endless mode, and that’s it. Tricky Tower is a simple game, but the luck factor for success in a majority of the game modes can cause much more frustrating than something where the player’s skill has a larger affect on the outcome.