When it comes to choosing between games that are made for all ages and those that are targeted at mature gamers, well, I tend to err on the side of blood and guts. There are rare exceptions, of course, most notably the range of Lego games—that is, before they became incredibly repetitive—and the occasional sports title that prioritises arcade play over hardcore realism.
Tricky Towers wasn’t on my radar until I heard the elevator pitch: Tetris meets Jenga. And that really is the simplest way to describe it. Players manipulate randomised tetronimo pieces that fall magically from the sky, just like Tetris. Where it differs in Tricky Towers is that instead of trying to form lines that disappear so you don’t hit the top of the screen, players are racing to stack pieces beyond the top of the screen to a floating finish line.
It gets somewhat complicated when the game throws an advanced physics engine into the mix, which means that poorly stacked towers tend to fall over. In my time with the game, this rarely resulted in an entire tower falling into the abyss, but small (or, frustratingly, sometimes large chunks) regularly fell off during my hasty tower building.
It’s at this point that developer WeirdBeard Games throws in another twist. Each player’s tower is overseen by a magical wizard floating in a cloud (no, really) and once a tower rises past a certain milestone, the wizard is rewarded with a single-use magic power-up. This power-up is randomised and breaks down into one of two categories.
On one hand, you can use ‘good magic’ to spawn something that will help your rickety tower. This might be an immovable piece, or a floating spire from which you can build (this was a godsend for me). The alternative is to use ‘bad magic’, which translates to screwing with the other players’ towers in some form or another. This could mean that their next piece is teleported away, or replaced with a giant tetronimo that’s almost impossible to place.
In all honesty, I gauged the success of each execution of bad magic by the reaction of the two players sitting on the couch next to me. While I could have glanced at the carnage, there’s a fantastic pressure that you need to be fixated on your tower building at all times in order to win the race. My general preference of bad magic over good magic, meant I was able to shift from last to first, balancing a piece on the checkered line for the three seconds required to score a win (and that was my third attempt at the three-second countdown, too).
That’s the first of three modes. In puzzle mode players start without the benefit of flat foundations, which means those Tetris skills become paramount to forming a stable base before you can even hope to build vertically. The third mode, survival, is an advanced affair, where it’s less about racing and more about building an incredibly stable tower. In this mode you have to be the first player to place 66 pieces to secure victory.
The catch, though, is every time a piece (or chunk of tower) falls off, you lose a heart. After three hearts are lost, that’s game over. This happens a lot faster than expected. On top of this, players can boost the difficulty. My last match was playing a race with a crazy easterly wind that meant the early tall-stacking tactics of the lower difficulty were impossible, because pieces and sections of the tower toppled shortly after placement in the strong gale.
Tricky Towers makes for the perfect party game because it’s incredibly easy to learn, with games that are short and a hell of a lot of fun. You can best challenges alone, but I dare say that solo play is best treated as training mode for the main event: four players duking it out across three modes. It was recently greenlit on Stream Greenlight, so you can expect to see it on Steam soon.
If you’re a fan of party games, like the titles I listed in this feature about local multiplayer titles on Steam, Tricky Towers stands as an easy drop into your digital library.