Oh, yes, by all means, attempt to curl your lip around your snide glasses of wine and point that pinky out. By all means, do it. But I’m telling you, one day, you’ll have to give in and wrap yourself around Super Puzzle Platformer, just because it’s free, and then you’ll HAVE to purchase the far superior Deluxe version. See, it even has a luxurious word added to it to make sure you don’t feel like you’re stooping down to some inferior gaming experience just because it has a gun in it.
Aren’t you tempted yet? I mean, Deluxe does have a multiplayer mode, capes, ninjas and dual-wielding. It’s even on Steam. You’re missing out, if you ask me.
Just like the free version, Deluxe has you playing a cute creature with a gun inside what most would recognize to be someone else’s game of Tetris. Do not be misled, however; you are most definitely center-stage in your own acrobatic action scene. You have eight squares across to run along as the blocks fall from above, and your task is to shoot them away, just as in Tetris, plain and simple. Obviously, the blocks come in different colors, and should you shoot a big bunch of the same color, then you’ll cause quite the explosion and see many trinkets burst out of them as if you’ve just busted open a bank vault. You collect these trinkets in order to build your levels up, which causes you to get bigger guns and better firepower to shoot the blocks with. Those who have played Cave Story at all will know how it works.
At first, the game does feel pretty hard as you adjust to the controls, particularly how the characters jump, but also because nothing is explained to you by the game itself. It’s quite distancing, and you feel like you’ve been thrown into the deep end without armbands or the knowledge of how to swim. It’s the type of arcade game that would rather you die a few times and learn from your mistakes, rather than spelling everything out to you. So from the very start, Super Puzzle Platformer Deluxe pertains to the difficult, and it will have no problem continuing that throughout.
Once you press on through the initial adjustment phase, the game instantly grabs a hold of your brain, and the replay factor and engaging gameplay some will recognize from the arcade cabinets will keep you entranced for a while. There’s seriously something mystic going on here. You get into one those states when you hear people talking to you, but can’t keep your eyes away from the screen or acknowledge their questions with anything more than an ignorant grunt. “Just one more go,” you’ll be chanting, as if some crazed child who’s found a new ride at the local park.
Before you jump into the meat of the game, each time you’ll be greeted by two screens that will become very familiar – level select and character select. Unlocking these screens fully requires a few hours work, and rather than being dictated by reaching a high score, as you may intially believe, these unlocks come by means of collecting the big diamonds while you’re playing. You get these over time and by causing as much ruckus as you can, and you carry each collected diamond across all of your attempts, so if you’re not doing that well at the game, then you will unlock more levels and characters over time. Eventually.
With each new level unlocked comes another set of challenges related to the theme. If it’s an ice level, then expect stalactites to fall. The fiery level has fireballs and lava that rises. The machine level contains drills and buzzsaws to avoid. Similarly, each of the characters you unlock not only look a little different, but come with a new ability too. Dual-wielding, a jetpack and melee-only are a few examples. You’ll find your favorite character quite quickly and probably stick with it, but the variation is available should you want to challenge yourself or just fancy a change. Perhaps you find some characters are more suited to different levels.
Speaking of challenges, you’ll also unlock extra challenges for the game’s Challenge mode. Oh, yes. If you thought the standard game was hard, you just wait until you try any one of these. They’re time-based, so often the task is to survive for as long as possible while an onset of torture is thrown your way. Your guns will do you no good here, as cannons, spikes and fireballs, and the rest of the game’s hazards, are all lined up to bring you a world of pain. Those players after something a little more difficult will revel in the Challenge mode, while I think the majority will be more comfortable with just ignoring it altogether, until at least the standard game runs its course.
Lastly, you have the local multiplayer mode, which you can play with two controllers or share a keyboard – no online, I’m afraid. This works the same as the normal game, but this time, when a player clears a big chunk of same colored blocks, they’ll send a hazard, such as spikes or a rotating firestick, over to their enemy on the other side of the screen. There’s a lot of back-and-forth, and the screen seems to fill up quickly, but the highly competitive nature of this mode creates many amusing moments that you can usually blame on your opponent.
There’s little that you can fault about Super Puzzle Platformer Deluxe. Perhaps the only slight issue may be that it doesn’t make it clear what your goal is at the start, apart from shooting blocks and surviving, but that’s deliberate and soon becomes apparent once you get a little further into the game. It’s a compelling arcade title from the start, and once you get a taste, it’s very hard to resist the demanding difficulty and rewarding block-popping gameplay. Fans of simple, yet long-lasting arcade games will find this to be another title they come back to again and again.