Tetris's 25th Reminds Me Of My Favorite Puzzle Games

In case you didn't notice, on June 5th, one of the most famous puzzle games of all time celebrated it's 25th anniversary... Tetris.  Even Google honored the puzzle-shifting masterpiece with its own custom search page logo.  Game Informer featured a wonderful interview with Alexey Pajitnov - the original creator, who to this day is delighted that his brainchild has inspired generations of gamers to exercise their neurons.

In fact, Tetris is thought to be the raw material from which all other puzzle games have been wrought.  Reading the GI article and a recent game of multiplayer Tetris DS showed me how truly addictive puzzle games can be... and how I've been playing puzzle games for a very long time.

So, for those who haven't branched out from the world of colored falling blocks and catchy chiptunes, here's some of my other favorite puzzle titles of all time:

The Lemmings

Oh come on, you haven't played this one? Seriously? OK, you probably have played Lemmings... a true classic.  Instead of falling colored blocks, you get falling... Lemmings - humanoid creatures that only do what you tell them, and otherwise will happily march off of cliffs to their certain squishy doom.  It's your task to assign each Lemming a unique duty, such as bridge builder or traffic cop, to guide them safely towards the exit.  Only problem is that you only have so many of each role to give out, thus the challenge.   Tons of ports are available for this game, although it was originally released on the Commodore Amiga to great success.

The Incredible Machine

This gem is a little more obscure, a Rube Goldberg-inspired romp through whimsical, cartoon-like contraptions designed to boggle your brain.  In each given setup, you'll have to perform a simple task (such as dropping a ball into a hole or something like that) by using whatever components you are given.  This will almost always end up in the creation of a ridiculously impossible string of unnecessary components, as in "cat-falls-down-hole-hits-seesaw-then-bounces-on-trampoliine-hitting-lighter-which-ignites-fuse-that-blows-up-bomb-to-beat-the-level."  Endless hours of crazy fun.


Jumping waaaaaay forward in time from the early 90's, Lumines really defines what I love about puzzle games - tying in elements previously held separate, such as music and gameplay, and fusing them into something greater.

In Lumines, blocks of 4 smaller blocks will fall from the top of the screen, and your job is to group similar colors together to clear the screen.  Sounds simple, and it is at first, but becomes increasingly more difficult as time goes on.  

The truly unique feature of Lumines is how the soundtrack is combined with the gameplay.  Various beautifuly composed tunes play on the background, some pulsating techno, others hard rock, and the music ebbs and flows with your performance in the game.  Clearing large amounts of blocks results in a symphonic, triumphant crescendo, for example.  In addition, there is a "metronome" line that sweeps the screen, which is the catalyst for clearing blocks.  This enables you to time your drops *just right* so that the metronome will clear larger and larger amounts of blocks.  This is a game I find irresistible and dust off my PSP as often as I can to give it a go.

Puzzle Quest: Galactrix

My affinity for the Puzzle Quest series started with Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords, and continues on with Galactrix, the newest in the series.

Puzzle Quest: Galactrix is set in a futuristic setting, and melds unique puzzle based gameplay with RPG elements: think Wing Commander: Privateer but with hexagonal pieces instead of warships.  The player must match rows of these pieces by color, and matching each will grant more action points, defense, etc - and clearing rows of mines will damage the other player.

As you progress from planet to planet and system to system you'll be able to upgrade your ship, buy new weapons, and upgrade your skills.  If you haven't played this one yet (or its predecessor) you'll be shocked at how seamlessly puzzle blends with RPG, and you'll be instantly addicted.

Tetris still lives on...

All of that being said, I still love my Tetris.  I'm a huge fan of Tetris DS, even though I continually get whomped by anonymous puzzle-players in the Internet play mode.

Make sure that you give the 'ol boy some playtime, even if just for old times' sake, and enjoy a "piece" of puzzle history.

What are your favorite puzzle games?  I'd love to know... I'm always on the hunt for a new brain twister.



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