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When you think of puzzle games, the main ones that come to mind are Tetris, Lumines, or Puyo Puyo, right? PixeLakes is trying to build a new brand name to add to that collection with their recent release, Treasure Stack. Jump, grapple, and stack your way through a chaotic adventure to see how long you can last.
The basic concept of Treasure Stack is that colored treasure chests are falling from the sky and you want to make sure that you connect a number of them and unlock them with key blocks that are also falling. Seems simple, right? Well, the twist is that, as time goes on, the game will throw “demon runes” at you, which are essentially blocks that have no purpose other than to get in your way! You eliminate them by clearing a treasure chest color next to them or using item blocks which occasionally pop up in the form of a sword that will clear a horizontal line or a bomb to explode a few adjacent blocks. Oh, and did I mention a grappling hook? If your treasure is not falling fast enough, you can also use your handy-dandy grappling hook to rope ‘em down to you faster. But watch out, those blocks can get out of hand very quickly if you aren’t careful.
Treasure Stack steps away from most vertical dropping puzzle games in the fact that once a chest or any block is dropped, you may always move it where you need to make the perfect combos. Your character can run and jump on top of platforms that you are building and pick up one or more blocks at a time. This does take a while to get used to, which adds an already frustrating learning curve. It did not always feel fluid when grabbing a block and trying to lay it down. I often found myself grabbing more blocks than I intended or placing them down in the wrong section. As I played more matches, I improved but still have moments where I will be defeated because of those darn demon runes screwing me over when I position the key block one space too far out of place.
This game does offer a variety of game types, but they all feel the same and only feature the addition of more players in comparison to the single player mode. You can play a solo session, local versus mode of up to 4 players, and online battles. There is not much difference between the versus modes as you are not attacking one another but rather seeing who can last the longest. This is the same for the online mode, but there is a seasonal leader board that could spark some friendly competition if the player base grows. It was sad to see no story mode, however, or other variation to the game to spice things up after you have already played a few matches.
One thing that might keep you playing is the unlockables. Depending on your score at the end of each run, you will be able to start unlocking new characters and grappling hooks to use in the game. Unfortunately, all these unlockables are random, so it was a pretty long grind before I even found a grappling hook that I wanted. Plus these new items don’t do anything other than make it more visually appealing. The game could have been more dynamic if, say, various characters had special perks or maybe a grappling hook had different benefits.
There are also many little. quality-of-life things that can be done to improve the experience as well. Starting up a new game takes way too long. You will have to close the match you had, go back to solo play or whichever mode, select your character and grappling hook and then start the match. Not having an option to replay the match seems like a big oversight, especially since these matches when you are first learning can be rather short. For those who want to get away on vacation and don’t have wifi, you will also be informed that you don’t have internet every time you return from a match so that will take even longer.
For the time I was actually in the game, however, I did have a good time. Matches are relatively short even once you get the hang of it (keep those combos up even if they are small chest matches!) so it is easy to pick up and play a quick match at any time.With friends, although you aren’t attacking one another, there is still a sense of accomplishment when showing them that they can’t quite stack up (ba dum tish) to your superior skills. And at the end of the day, it’s a fun title to join the puzzle-game world. Overall, I think it is a good game that could improve in future iterations but also benefit from new game modes or variety to keep you invested long term.