|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Namco||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Namco Bandai||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Feb.20, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Maria Montoro
When Alexey Pazhitnov developed the concept of Tetris in 1985, he had no idea it would have such a huge impact in the world of video games. Year after year, we continue to see new software that has been developed with Tetris in mind. For some reason, developers keep thinking their game will be even better than Tetris, but this just never happens; no matter how good a puzzle game is, it will never beat Tetris, especially if it's based upon the same concept.
Trioncube is a simple, not very challenging puzzle game also derived from the "king of puzzles." However, it will keep you hooked for a while. The story follows your journey to rescue the kidnapped princess. Her father, the king, will leave this task in your hands, as most kings do when their daughters are kidnapped in a video game. You'll be the captain of the mighty ship named Penko, which is a cute, motorized, blue bird that will allow you to travel the space so you can locate the princess and take her back home safe. As you advance through the levels, you'll see some cute animations on the top screen that show how the story develops and how close you are to saving the princess from Hell Metal's hands.
As you might have imagined, the gameplay occurs on a vertical, rectangle-shaped container. Pieces of different shapes drop from above and, much like in Tetris, you'll have to try and place them strategically, in order to build square blocks of 3 x 3. Once you activate one of those blocks, you'll have to continue building around it as much as you can, even if you get all the way to the top of the screen. The bigger your activated chain is, the faster the space ship will travel, the sooner you'll get to the goal, and the more coins you will collect. If you get a piece that can't contribute to the growth of the chain you were building up, the block will turn into coins, and the leftover pieces will drop the bottom. You should start a new 3 x 3 block again as soon as possible because time is important in order to receive better rewards when you beat the level. Even though Trioncube is a Nintendo DS game, you'll only use the stylus to navigate through the menus (if you want) and you'll play with the buttons. I don't mind using the buttons to play the game. If a game is more suitable for that kind of controls, why abuse the stylus?
The game is actually really easy, probably too easy for a gamer above ten years old, but it remains somewhat addictive because you can unlock new sound effects and skins to add some zing to the otherwise blatantly plain and repetitive gameplay. The only obstacles you will encounter are the time limit, which can get tight in a few of the later levels, and what they call "space junk." In some stages, useless, black blocks will drop over your nicely arranged pieces and spoil your plan. If you're fast enough, you'll manage to build up a 3 x 3 combo that will activate all the pieces around it, including the once useless black pieces. As you can see, even the most "challenging" aspect of the game will easily turn your way and help you win one more time. You won't really see the words "Game Over" very often. You could actually beat the whole game in less than two hours and not lose a single time! If it wasn't for the little gimmicks you can buy with the coins you collect, the game wouldn't really have an objective. Well, yes, saving the princess, but the story and the animations are not powerful enough to maintain your interest forever.
Sound effects are easier to attain, but the game is not very generous and you'll barely have the chance to buy a couple of skins before you beat the whole 45 levels. They probably did this so you will have a reason to keep playing the game after beating the story mode. There is a special skin with the Xevious theme, for those of you who remember that old school, 1982, space-themed title that has been ported to other consoles more than a few times. However, it will take you forever to unlock it, if you do have the patience to continue playing Trioncube.
All of the skins have their own charm though, and add a little freshness to the game. Trioncube is very colorful with cute character designs and modern backsplashes full of bubbles and other geometrical figures. The boy has really funny blonde hair just randomly placed over his head like a loose wig. The princess has some resemblance to Princess Peach, but don't all princesses wear a pink dress with white accents and have idealistic, wavy, blonde hair? And don't all the kings have a white beard and a golden crown over their heads? Ok, maybe this game it's not exceptionally imaginative, but the characters' faces are funny and original, with just two dots for their eyes and a really small, hand-drawn mouth. There's also King Pluto, the monster that helps Hell Metal, the bad guy of the story. At the end of each stage, while the game auto-saves, he'll show up with a new, wacky comment. He's always complaining, saying things like "The bread's gone all moldy," "I hate going to the dentist," or "The yogurt lid splattered on my table." The smartest thing I saw him say was "Money can't buy happiness," which seems a little out of place. The developers probably thought these sentences were witty and would add a funny touch to the game, but they're not that clever, although I guess they're humorous enough to make me smile each time and not press the "skip" button until I've read the whole sentence.
I also liked the way King Pluto growls after he makes his statements. It's silly, but it's a good monster's growl. The sound effects are pretty charming and varied. When you start buying sound effects, you can apply them to the game so you will hear them when you build combos instead of hearing the star sound effect over and over. You can choose a clucking chicken, a bell, a karate fighter, a cuckoo clock, a kitty's meow, a bouncy ball effect, and many more. I still don't have a favorite; I like to alternate them all. Too bad there aren't as many background music tracks as there are sound effects. The game has a good musical theme to start with, but it definitely wears off over time. You can't just assume the players will enjoy hearing the same song over and over! Unless you're so sucked into the game that you don't even notice the music, it will annoy you to the point that you'll just turn the sound off; a shame. I like how the music gets faster in the last levels when you're running out of time; I always thought that was just perfect to drive you crazy while you're trying to beat the stage! That's when your concentration comes into place: you're better off ignoring the fast-paced music or you'll ruin everything you've done!
Arcade and Endless Mode basically have the same gameplay as the Story Mode, with no extra added challenge or appeal. "Endless Mode" is not endless, but it's long with 99 added levels where you continue to do exactly the same as before. If you have a pal that would play this game with you, you might enjoy the Vs. mode. Building large chains will throw black pieces on top of your adversary's, which is always fun and creates some extra competition. You can also play the same way against the CPU. Again, nothing too special; they could have been more imaginative and create a few different modes to increase the interest of the game but, just like it is, it's not enough for anybody to enjoy more than a few times.
If you like all sorts of puzzle games and you can't get enough of them, here is a new game you can play. You'll play it, you'll beat it, and you'll have the incentive to unlock new skins and sound effects; it's one more for your collection. If you are looking for a new puzzle game so you can enjoy the addictive and mindless gameplay for hours, killing time while you're on the road or spending some time at your grandma's house, Trioncube might do the trick, but there are other puzzle games out there that deserve more attention, like Super Puzzle Fighter, Columns, Meteos or just the old, but never boring Tetris.
CCC Freelance Writer