Originally released back in 1984, Tetris is one of the most influential video games of all time. Tetris basically created its own genre of video games after all. Today this genre of games is really popular especially in the mobile markets. While the genre has plenty of games, it is not known for originality. Most games are basically the same with only slight gameplay tweaks or different themes differentiating them. This is why it is genuinely surprising when a new game comes along that actually does something unique. Today’s game Treasure Stack does something that I have never really seen in this genre of games. It finds a way of combining a Tetris style puzzle game with platformer mechanics. Treasure Stack uses some really interesting ideas to breath life into a genre that has become quite stale, but unfortunately has its own issues which keep it from being as good as it could have been.
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank PIXELAKES LLC for the review copy of Treasure Stack used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.
Like a lot of puzzle games, the goal in Treasure Stack is to place matching colored treasure chests next to one another. Players then try to place a key of the same color next to the connected chests which will remove them from the gameboard. When the other players complete combos or enough time passes in single player, blocks are dropped onto your chests that can only be removed if you clear the neighboring treasure chests. The game even includes special blocks that have special abilities that eliminate nearby blocks. Players are eliminated once a chest sits above the line on the gameboard. At this point most people probably are thinking Treasure Stack sounds like every other game in this genre.
The one thing that distinguishes Treasure Stack, from all of the other games in this genre, is the fact that instead of controlling the blocks you control a character inside the gameboard. The character can run left and right on the board. As the treasure chests reach the bottom, they become platforms that you have to jump between. You use your character to pick up blocks and move them around the gameboard in order to create matches to clear the treasures from your gameboard. The game even gives you a grappling hook which can be used to grab falling blocks before they reach the ground.
When I first saw Treasure Stack this platforming mechanic is what really intrigued me. The game looked like Tetris mixed with a platformer. After playing the game, I think this comparison is still valid. I have played quite a few different puzzle games in this genre and I have never played anything quite like Treasure Stack. Adding the platforming mechanics isn’t just a gimmick as it truly impacts the gameplay. Having to grab chests and physically move them to your desired location changes how you play the game. At times Treasure Stack feels similar to the other games in this genre and at other times it feels like a totally new game.
The fact that you physically have to move around the gameboard impacts how you approach the game. In most games in this genre it doesn’t really impact the game if you create a large stack somewhere on the gameboard as you don’t have to traverse it. This can be a huge problem in Treasure Stack though as you have to physically move around the board in order to rearrange chests. As your character can only jump up one level higher than their current level, you shouldn’t create tall columns. It will be hard to reach the top of the column and it can block your movement left and right. While there are a few tricks you can use to get to the top of a tall stack, you are better off trying to level off your gameboard the best you can. This makes movement much easier allowing you to set up larger combos.
Being a big fan of puzzle games, I find this genre of games to be fun to bring out every once and a while. I don’t try out a lot of these type of games though because they are so similar. This is why I felt Treasure Stack was such a refreshing take on the genre. The main gameplay mechanics are exactly the same but adding in the character movement changes the whole experience. In a genre that is usually devoid of a lot of creativity, it is nice to see a game doing something truly original. Treasure Stack deserves a lot of credit for trying something new.
I enjoyed playing Treasure Stack. I don’t see the game being for everyone though. People who don’t generally like these type of games probably won’t like Treasure Stack either. If you like these type of games though, I think you will enjoy your time with Treasure Stack as well. The simple fact that the game is quite unique makes it stand out from a lot of the other games in this genre. The fast paced gameplay is satisfying and can be somewhat addicting. With most games only taking around five minutes, you likely will want to play several games before turning it off.
With all of this going for it, Treasure Stack had the potential to be a revolutionary puzzle game. Unfortunately there are some issues that prevent the game from ever realizing its potential.
I think the game’s biggest problems come from the controls not being quite as tight as they probably should have been. While the blocks snap to the gameboard grid, your character does not. This makes movement smoother and more realistic. At the same time though it makes placing blocks quite a bit harder. I played the game on Steam with a Xbox controller. Most of the time the game would place the chests where I wanted them. When you are between two grid spaces though, it is sometimes hard to get the game to place the chests on the space you wanted. You can always pick them up and move them to another space but you will lose time. I just wish the controls were a little tighter so these situations wouldn’t come up.
There are also a few things I would have tweaked with the gameplay. First I wish there was a way to rearrange the chests you are currently carrying. When you grab chests out of the air you basically have to place the two blocks in the order that they were spawned. Sometimes this is a good thing as it is the way you would have placed them anyway. For situations where you wish the chests were reversed though, it can be a hassle switching them. Without the ability to rearrange them in your hands, the game forces you to lay down the chests and move them between a couple different columns in order to reverse the order.
While I liked how the platforming mechanics force you to try and keep the columns as level as possible, there are problems when you are unable to. Once you have a large stack, it is hard to get rid of it. It makes movement around the gameboard much harder which makes it harder to make combos. When you get into one of these situations it is hard to get out of it. Some of this is your own fault for not keeping the columns level but it feels a little unforgiving at times. I think the game should have given players a little more flexibility with regards to movement. I think the characters should have been able to jump the height of two chests which would have made movement easier. The game also kind of wastes the grappling hook as the game should have let you use it to make moving around the gameboard easier.
Treasure Stack clearly wanted games to be on the shorter side with most taking less than five minutes. This adversely impacts the gameplay though in my opinion. You clearly don’t want the rounds to last forever but the game basically forces the rounds to end too quickly. The game doesn’t have a set time limit but it seems to have an indirect limit. In multiplayer the game begins to drop the chests quicker and quicker until it gets to the point that you can’t keep up with them. In the single player the game begins dropping the blocks that just get in your way quicker. In both situations you reach a point where unless you are a Tetris expert you have no chance of keeping up. At this point you just have to hope the chests drop in a way that sets off combos clearing out your board. The game eventually had to reach this point but I think games end too quickly.
Speaking of the single player, I ended up trying out both the single player and the local multiplayer. Of the two I definitely preferred the multiplayer. The single player is fine but it seems like more of a training mode for the multiplayer. You just try to survive as long as possible to score points which unlocks characters and grappling hooks. Instead of playing against an AI opponent, the game periodically drops blocks that get in your way. Early in the game this is fine but the pace picks up quickly where it becomes impossible to keep up. I think the single player would have been better if it had some sort of AI opponents to play against. The main reason I prefer the multiplayer is that it is just more enjoyable playing this type of game against another player (the game supports up to four players total). Trying to beat your friends is just more enjoyable as each combo you make drops blocks on the other player’s boards.
Like most arcade style puzzle games, Treasure Stack is one of those type of games that you play for a while and then return to another day. As I mentioned earlier, most games of Treasure Stack will take around five minutes to complete. You will likely want to play several games back to back though. With how short the games are and the fact that you end up doing the same things over and over again, the game does get a little repetitive after a while. I see Treasure Stack as the type of game you play for 30-60 minutes and then come back to another day. How much time you ultimately get out of the game comes down to how long you can play an arcade game like Tetris without getting sick of it. Some people might tire of the game after a couple hours while others could play the game for many hours. With the game retailing for $20, the price is probably a little high for casual fans of the genre. If you can play Tetris like games for long periods of time though, you should get your moneys worth.
Treasure Stack deserves a lot of credit for taking a genre that rarely does something new and actually creates a unique experience. The game basically takes your typical Tetris like game and adds a platforming mechanic. Instead of controlling the chests themselves, you control a character that can pick up the chests and move them around the gameboard. This is a really interesting mechanic that alters how you approach the game. This mechanic is pretty fun and had the potential to be great. Unfortunately the controls could have been a little tighter and some of the mechanics could have been slightly tweaked. Games also tend to end too quickly. Treasure Stack is still a good game but it is not as good as it could have been.
While Treasure Stack is an original take on the genre, people who have never really cared for Tetris like puzzle games probably won’t like Treasure Stack either. If you like this genre of games though and think the premise sounds interesting, you should enjoy your time with Treasure Stack. Whether you should purchase the game right away or wait for a sale depends on how much you like this genre and how much time you think you can get out of it.