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Trioncube Review

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Developer: Namco Publisher: Namco Bandai
Release Date: February 20, 2007 Also On: None

Ever since the original Game Boy launched with Tetris, handheld systems have been bastions of puzzle games. Indeed, even on the PSP, one of the most heralded games on the system has been Lumines. Neither is the DS any exception to this rule. Already the home to such great puzzle games as Meteos and Tetris DS, as well as lesser puzzle games like Zoo Keeper, the DS is no slouch when it comes to having a wide variety of puzzle offerings. One of the latest of these offerings is Namco Bandai’s Trioncube. But how does it fare among its competition? Read on to find out.

Graphically, this game presents itself quite well for a puzzle game. The animations for the cutscenes are done fairly well, and the default background for the gameplay itself makes a lot of sense given the plot of the game. And, if you ever tire of the default gameplay background, there are more that you can unlock and you can switch between them between levels in the story mode, or choose which one you want to use before starting in the other modes. Many of them are a bit off-the-wall though, and some of them can make it harder to see what’s going on. Overall, though, this game offers more graphically than most games of its kind, but don’t expect the graphics in this game to be awe-inspiring.

In terms of sound, the music is competent when you don’t have to listen to it for too long, but some of it can get old fast if you listen to it in long bursts and are one of those people who pays too much attention to music. In terms of sound effects, the sound effect when you choose things on the menu is fairly standard and thus not worth any extended commentary. The sound effect for a piece landing is likewise a typical puzzle-game thud. The sound effect when you initiate or increase the size of a chain, like the background, can be switched as you unlock more possible sounds, and all of them sound good and accurate for what they are supposed to be, although many of them are a bit off-the-wall given the atmosphere of the game, and sound out of place. The sound in this game isn’t bad, but this might be the type of game where some people would want to just turn the sound off and listen to the radio.

The concept of Trioncube isn’t hard to figure out. It’s a puzzle game, in case you haven’t figured that out. It takes place in a grid nine spots horizontally by eleven spots vertically. Like many puzzle games, pieces fall from the top of the playing field, in this game each consisting of three blocks. Your objective is to place these together so that you have a three-by-three square, after which you attempt to continue positioning subsequent pieces in such a way that additional three-by-three squares are made. Failure to do so breaks the chain. When this happens, every block that was a part of that chain falls out of the playing field in the form of a coin, and the remaining blocks fall to the bottom. The same thing will happen if you take too long to position a piece. Making matters even more interesting is the fact that, in most modes, you have to get a certain amount of chain credit (note: this is my term, not one from in the game) within a time limit, making the use of chaining virtually required.

Trioncube controls then like most normal puzzle games then, with the A and B (or L and R) buttons controlling rotation, and the control pad controlling movement. There is no need to ever use the stylus for anything, and this is a type of game that the control pad and buttons work better for anyway. Overall, the game controls well, although the pieces move slowly, making sliding them hard since you have to gauge exactly when to let go of down on the control pad to get the piece to stop on the bottom to be slid without locking it. That’s a minor gripe though. A slightly less minor gripe might be the lack of variety in pieces. I think there’s only about five or six piece types in this game. I realize there’s limited options when each piece is only three blocks in size, but it still makes the game seem repetitive.

This game contains four single-player modes: a tutorial mode, an endless mode, an arcade mode, and a story mode. The tutorial mode should be self-explanatory. In the endless mode, you choose a starting dimension (this game’s term for level) and keep playing until your pieces stack up to the top of the screen without any three-by-three square being made or you fail to get a certain amount of chain credit in the time limit. I should say it’s near impossible to get all the way to the top of the screen without initiating any chain, as, in my hours of playing the game, I never had that happen. Perhaps it can in multiplayer though, or those sections of the single-player that emulate multiplayer, but I’ll get to that later.

In the arcade mode, you are faced with eight levels. Seven of them are distance levels where you try to earn chain credit to propel your ship through space, and, in the last, you earn chain credit to ram your ship into a monster to save a princess. Yes, the entire story of this game revolves around this guy in a spaceship powered by chain credit trying to save a princess. It’s unoriginal, but at least it isn’t repetitive in the arcade mode. Besides, who cares about the story in a puzzle game anyway?

But then you have the story mode. Yep, that’s right, this is a puzzle game with a story mode. It is, however, the most formulaic and repetitive story in the entire world, or at least you’ll think it is by the time you get through it. The hero leaves to get the princess. Naturally, there are a couple bad guys who show up and each of them wants her. I’ll not spoil the rest. Anyway, levels in the story mode have one of four objectives: you might be trying to cover distance to get somewhere, you might be trying to catch up to someone, you might be trying to get to a goal before someone, or you might be trying to ram your ship into someone to blow them up. The sad thing is, nothing in the actual game changes no matter which of these objectives is the one you’re going for. Every level plays pretty much the same, except for two exceptions.

The first exception is a level where your ship is malfunctioning. In this case, you have to chain your pieces faster to prevent the chain from breaking due to time. The second exception is levels involving space junk. Space junk takes the form of black blocks that periodically come into the playing field. If you’ve ever played Puyo Pop in any of its forms, just think of the black puyos, and you won’t be far off. For the rest of you, these black blocks cannot be used to initiate chains, but, once a chain is initiated, if they can connect to the chain to make more three-by-three blocks, they will. These two exceptions make some of the levels slightly less repetitive, but not by much.

All told, these single-player modes can last a while, especially since many of them have multiple skill levels. Of course, you can’t choose what skill level you want to play at, but rather play at one, and when you beat it, the game automatically starts you back at the beginning of the next one. And, of course, there’s all the sound effects and graphical styles to unlock if you’re the type who enjoys doing that.

In terms of multiplayer, you can basically play against the computer or you can play against other people. When you play against an opponent, the objective is to cover the distance within the time limit and faster than your opponent. When you break a chain, black blocks will fall onto your opponent, the quantity of which will be determined by how big of a chain you had. If you play against the computer, there are nine skill levels from which to choose, so everyone from the new player to the seasoned veteran should be able to find a reasonable opponent. In terms of playing with other people, if you’re only going to play with one other person, you can utilize single-card play, but the game can facilitate up to four people if you use multi-card play. These multiplayer modes are nice, but the lack of an online mode is obvious, and the success of Tetris DS, in my opinion, shows that online play can work for puzzle games, so its omission is a fairly significant blow to the replay value.

What then is the conclusion? Trioncube is a nice game. It does a lot of things very well, and for those who are interested in games like this, it can potentially last a significant amount of time. Only the fact that there are plenty of other good puzzle games on the DS prevents me from wholeheartedly recommending this one, but, if you are looking for a good puzzle game to play, you could do far worse than Trioncube.

Graphics: 7
Sound: 6
Gameplay: 7
Creativity: 7
Replay Value/Game Length: 7
Final: 7
Written by Martin Review Guide