Category Archives: Puzzlers

The most interesting, unusual or otherwise noteworthy games in the underappreciated puzzle game genre.

Old Towers: Up and Down and Side to Side

As we’ve seen a few times already, the Mega Cat Studios Collection 1 cartridge for the Evercade retro gaming platform contains some great examples of new games written for classic platforms.

A favourite of many players is Old Towers, another game from the Russian collective RetroSouls, who specialise in high-quality short-form games for old-school systems ranging from the ZX Spectrum to the Sega Mega Drive. Old Towers has appeared on a couple of different formats, but the one found on the Evercade cart is the original Mega Drive version.

Grab your popcorn and get ready for some brain-bending puzzle action, then — it’s time to climb the Old Towers.

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Chew Man Fu: Balls to the Wall

It’s fair to say that the PC Engine is primarily known for its huge collection of shoot ’em ups today, but that’s not all that the diminutive wonder-platform was good at.

And, pleasingly, Konami’s excellent PC Engine Mini console features a wide variety of these “other” games alongside some classic shmups, in both the localised Turbografx-16 and unlocalised Japanese PC Engine titles in its on-board collection.

One such example is Chew Man Fu, also known as Be Ball in Japan. This is a solid puzzler from 1990, developed by Now Production and published by Hudson Soft and NEC, and has been a real highlight of the platform’s library for me since I played it for the first time. So let’s take a closer look. And be warned, I’m going to use the word “balls” a lot of times in this article, so you’re just going to have to deal with it like a mature adult.

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Petal Crash: Like the Game Boy Colour Never Left

One of the things I miss the most about eras of gaming gone by is the way that different platforms had their own distinct capabilities — and, by extension, their own distinctive look and feel for their software.

On the flip side, one of the things I enjoy the most about gaming today is the fact that a lot of developers are very keen to pay tribute and homage to these platforms of the past while incorporating modern design philosophies. In many ways, this idea of “enhanced retro” gives us the best of both worlds — the comfort of a classic platform’s familiar aesthetic, coupled with all the things developers and players alike have learned over the course of gaming’s history.

A great example of this at work is Petal Crash, a new puzzle game from Friend & Fairy, published by Freedom Planet developer Galaxy Trail. Let’s take a closer look!

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The Brainies: Furry Balls

As we’ve seen a number of times already at this point, Blaze’s Evercade retro gaming platform is home to a wide variety of obscure titles that many people probably haven’t played — and which certainly haven’t been rereleased many times over the years.

Some great examples can be found on the two Interplay Collection cartridges, which include not only games that are associated with Interplay themselves, but also titles hailing from developers that subsequently ended up under the Interplay umbrella.

Interplay Collection 2, for example, plays host to a rather entertaining puzzle game featuring small, round, furry creatures. Let’s take a closer look at The Brainies, also known in some territories as Tiny Skweeks or The Tinies.

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Titan: Break Out, In and All Around

How do you improve on a classic formula? It’s a question many artists have explored over the years, and an easy answer for a lot of them seems to be “add more stuff”.

Atari’s Breakout is an immensely influential game, which subsequently begat Taito’s wonderful Arkanoid and all manner of other imitators from over the years.

French developer Titus Interactive observed that most Breakout clones over the years stuck rigidly to the “paddle at the bottom, single screen of blocks” formula. So in 1988, they set out to make something a bit different. The result was Titan, a title that has been newly resurrected for modern audiences thanks to the Interplay Collection 1 cartridge for the Evercade retro gaming system.

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Multidude: One-Player Co-Op

Have you found it difficult to get together with friends lately, perhaps due to a global virus pandemic? Are you missing the joy of cooperating with your fellow dudes, and open to an electronic surrogate? Then do I have the game for you.

Multidude is a short puzzle adventure by Russian developer RetroSouls. It was originally released for ZX Spectrum in 2014, then subsequently ported to NES the following year, at which point it was picked up by Mega Cat Studios for a packaged release.

It’s also part of the Mega Cat Studios Collection 1 for the Evercade retro gaming system, and that’s the version we’ll be looking at today. Bring on the dudes!

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Helltaker: Hell is Sliding Block Puzzles

At the time of writing, a new independently developed game called “Helltaker” is all over social media, with all sorts of people sharing screenshots and fanart.

With that in mind, I decided to give it a look for myself. Turns out it’s a free download for PC, available via Steam. As such, there’s absolutely no risk involved in trying it out at the very least — and if you like it, you have a cool thing to add to your library; if, on the other hand, it’s not for you, you haven’t lost anything.

What did I think? Hmm, mixed feelings if I’m perfectly honest; let’s explore all that a little further, then.

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Boulder Dash 30th Anniversary: The Rockford Files

Boulder Dash is an all-time classic game from the early microcomputer era.

First releasing on Atari 8-bit computers in 1984, it has enjoyed numerous ports, sequels, spinoffs and unofficial level packs for a wide variety of platforms, with the latest at the time of writing being the Nintendo Switch release of Boulder Dash 30th Anniversary. The official website has a nicely comprehensive history for you to enjoy at your leisure.

The astute among you will note that there are more than 30 years between 1984 and 2020. That’s because this port in particular also goes back a few years, too. Let’s take a closer look.

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Gunbarich: It’s Flippin’ Psikyonoid

2001’s Gunbarich was one of Psikyo’s last games before they merged with X-Nauts in 2002 — and the last title in the Psikyo Shooting Stars Bravo collection for Nintendo Switch.

It wasn’t one of their last shoot ’em ups, however, because despite technically being part of the Gunbird series in the loosest possible sense (it has the word “Gun” in the title and also features a cutesified version of recurring Gunbird mascot character Marion the witch) it’s not actually a shoot ’em up at all.

Nope; Gunbarich represents Psikyo turning its hand to that most venerable of genres: the ol’ bat and ball. Let’s take a closer look!

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Madoris R: The House That Switch Built

There’s an assumption among certain quarters of the gaming community these days that for a game to be “good” it needs to be technically impressive, it needs to be challenging and it needs to have complex, deep mechanics.

Madoris R doesn’t really fulfil any of those requirements, but 1) that doesn’t stop it being enjoyable and compelling, and 2) it costs £4.50.

If you’ve been looking for a Switch game that is ideal to chill out with when you’ve got a few minutes to spare, be sure to take a look at this one. Let’s explore!

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