A game about blocks of various shapes cascading from the sky that you have to stack; we've seen this before, right? Well, not quite. Tricky Towers may draw some inspiration from the classic Tetris, but adds a new theme, brand new mechanics, and physics!
In a sense, you must forget everything you know about Tetris. While you'd get away with putting a right angled block on an edge or leaving gaps in that, Tricky Towers is less forgiving. That block on the edge will slip away, and blocks will end up off-kilter if not supported properly. Gravity is not your friend here!
Your goal is also quite different at times, depending on the game mode of choice. There are three modes on offer: Puzzle, Race, and Survival.
Puzzle is the one that most closely resembles Tetris; it challenges players with stacking a certain number of blocks without the tower going over a certain height. You'll want to fill every crevice and make things stack together neatly, as the constraints are quite tight. This is a challenging mode that will test your fundamentals and at times leave you wondering just how so many blocks of various shapes and sizes are to fit in such an enclosed space.
Race, as the name suggests, has players race to build a tower of a certain height. You won't get any extra points for neatness or stability; all you have to do is reach a point. So there is that line you must toe between a structure that will actually stand and one that reaches the designated point before the timer ticks down or the other player hits it. As if that wasn't enough of a challenge, players (or the AI) will have spells at their disposal to disrupt your progress, meaning you're going to be taking one step forward and three steps back at times.
Then there is Survival, which gives you three lives equating to the number of blocks that you can lose from your tower into the void. The challenge here is to simply place as many blocks successfully as you can before your lives run out. Once again, it throws a spanner in the works by adding another layer of difficulty for a few blocks at the beginning of waves. Your success here will come down to luck as much as it will clever spell usage and talent. The disruption it throws at you at the beginning of waves makes a significant difference to how you'll perform, as it changes each time, as will how closely blocks fall together.
You have a grace period after a block falls in which you won't lose an additional life, but if you're losing a couple of blocks with a slight delay in between you're going to find yourself on death's door quite quickly. This can be quite frustrating as the wheels have been set in motion, just one block took a little longer to reach the point of no return than others.
There's certainly plenty to the single player game to keep you occupied for some time. There are trials that mix up the game modes and objectives to be completed. And Survival is always on hand, allowing you to compare your best score with your friends and the world at large.
But Tricky Towers is designed to be played with friends; it should have a decent player base at launch, as it will be one of the free PlayStation Plus games next month. For the purpose of this review, we were only able get a few local games in as online games were few and far between.
It is perhaps best played with a group of friends in the same room, so you can all share in the elation and frustration as spells hit and towers go tumbling as some inch closer and closer to victory. Without this camaraderie and banter, Tricky Towers will frustrate as the tower that you'll been putting your heart and soul into goes tumbling into the sea thanks to a well timed bubble spell.
Tricky Towers looks cute, but that's possibly the greatest trick it pulls. The game will have you scratching your head, gritting your teeth, or casting your eyes to the heaven's as gravity takes over and blocks fall one by one.
The single player modes will help you hone your skills and while there's plenty on offer here, playing too much of it won't do your blood pressure much good. With the right crowd however, there's a lot of fun to be had in the multiplayer side of things. And with it being free to download next month via PlayStation Plus, it's certainly worth giving it a whirl, especially as you're guaranteed to find matches pretty swiftly.
7/10 - Mark O'Beirne