Funny how things go round. Of late I seem to be playing games dear old Dad used to enjoy. Videogaming was never really his thing. Mum was always more happy to get involved and show some interest. So games like Jetpac, Cruising On Broadway, and much later Puzznic, do hold a very special place and fond memories.
This one came about because I upgraded my bedroom micro to a state of the art AGA powered Amiga 1200 (a second hand Commodore model at a time new Escom models were entering the stores). I needed to do something with my previous micro and the A600 had the perfect form factor to sit under the family TV and play the part of a game console much like the Mega Drive’s and SNES’s that were becoming popular at that time.
Alongside Jimmy White’s Whirlwind Snooker, Puzznic proved an instant family hit in this environment where anyone could easily switch it on, insert a disk, and get playing. Puzznic itself is a traditional block style puzzle game made for the arcades by Taito and ported to just about every home micro and console of the time by Ocean. It follows the general style/principle of game like Tetris, Columns, Sokoban, and Plotting.
Your task is simply to match the tiles. Putting two tiles of the same pattern next to each other make them disappear. All you need to do is make all the tiles on the screen disappear. Simple? For the first couple of levels it really is. Move yellow diamond on top of yellow diamond, then red circle next to red circle, and grey cones. And then the game offers up odd numbered tiles and the difficulty quickly ramps up. How do you get three, or more, tiles together when the first two disappear when they touch leaving you with an odd one?
As you get used to odd numbered tiles the game throws moving platforms at you to make it harder to get tiles of the same design in the same neck of the woods. And all of this happens under a minute/minute-half time limit with a claxon sounding and the music increasing it’s beat when you hit the 30 second mark to ramp up the pressure to complete the screen in time.
It’s a perfect puzzle game. Everything is very simple and yet, on higher levels, the obvious solutions may feel just slightly out of reach. And here in lays the games only real problem. It was made for the arcades so there is an coin eating hangover with the two retries and a limited number of continues (where you’d pay more to play on an arcade machine). Run out of continues and it’s back to Level 1 to battle through what you’ve already solved to have another attempt at the next screen that is keeping you awake a nights.
There is no saving your progress or password entry system to jump to your current progress point. You just have to start from the beginning and redo all the old puzzles before you can continue. And the game is a lot like Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, in that you only need to complete 10 levels but after an easy 2-3 level false start the puzzles (questions) suddenly get much harder. I’ve made it as far as Level 6 using a few Continues.
Thankfully the level structure is set up as an expanding pyramid almost to combat this obvious criticism. After Level 1, which is always the same, each level has branching direction for you to take to Level 10. Each time you play you can take a different path and see different puzzle screens. This helps keep the game fresh and adds to the long term replay value. There are about 120 puzzle screens in total between all the branching paths for you to solve.