Tricky Towers bears more than a passing resemblance to another exceptionally well-known brick-stacking game. In fact, Weirdbeard Games probably took a long hard look at the most successful titles of all time and thought “Tetris… no one’s bettered that yet!”, and decided to have a go themselves. Tricky Towers doesn’t have the purity, or likely the longevity of Tetris, but there is fun to be had with it, as long as you’ve got a friend or three on hand.
Single player content either takes the form of a series of trials which ramp up across five difficulty levels, or an Endless mode which does exactly what it sounds like. As you start, you choose from a cute wizard-y type whose magic you’re relying on to build your tricky tower, and tricky is definitely the operative word.
Imagine playing Tetris without its left and right boundary walls, and trying to build a solid stack of bricks on top of a small house in the middle of a lake. A misplaced brick will teeter precariously, or perhaps even fall off, dragging other bricks with it, while you try to reach the target tower height before time runs out. It’s actually a refreshing twist on one of gaming’s most iconic formulas.
Adding some flavour to the premise are the different tasks you’re given as you progress, moving from survival mode, where you can only lose three bricks into the void before you fail, to puzzle mode, where you have to build your bricks into a particular shape. The puzzle mode also serves to make you think about brick placement, what works and what doesn’t, which is incredibly helpful as you progress further into the game.
Of course, any game that involves wizards is likely to feature some magic, and Tricky Towers isn’t about to buck that trend. As you’re building, you’re often faced with a wizard adversary who has power over all of the remaining bricks. From time to time he’ll attempt to stop you by performing various misdeeds, from expanding the size of bricks to ridiculous proportions to obscuring your view by causing vegetation to grow on your tower.
In single player you can fire back with light magic, which ranges from making a solid stone block that won’t fall, to a block covered in vines that secures itself to those it’s placed next to, while multiplayer lets you choose between light and dark magic, as you reach certain milestones. However you’re playing, this can mean the difference between making it through and ignominious defeat, but in trying to wait for that pivotal moment, I would often miss my opportunity entirely.
This could all be a match made in heaven, if not for the fact that there are some key problems, particularly when playing alone. The standard movement speed for your blocks is lethargic – unless an enemy wizard has sped things up, at which point, of course, it’s too fast – and you’ll feel like every press of the D-pad is a huge effort. Mostly for you.
Once you’ve misplaced a brick, it’s nigh on impossible to come back from the way it contorts your tower, with the short play area meaning that once you’ve got one on an angle there’s probably nowhere else to go, and you’ll watch the next few bricks slide off into oblivion. You may envy them.
Combined with the repetitive music and sounds, the singleplayer mode can become a bit of a slog, with some unfair attacks from your adversary turning the closing moments of certain stages into pad endangering fury-fests.
Fortunately the local and online multiplayer is a great deal more fun. Putting another human being or three into the mix makes everything take on a new aspect, and the random unfairness that the single player game exhibits disappears across the various different multiplayer modes. Matches are often tense affairs, and the option of using your light magic to gain an extra life or take out a block comes up against the unerring urge to cause as much detriment to your opponents as possible. Watching an array of pianos and oddly shaped windmills descend towards their towers is unequivocally satisfying.
If you’re approaching Tricky Towers with only single player in mind, there are probably far better ways to spend your time. However, take it online – or ideally get some mates round – and you’ve suddenly got a fun, competitive little title that’ll easily keep you amused for a few hours.
Version Tested: PS4