We interrupt the usual puzzles to promote Super Plexis on Kickstarter.

(Edited on 2017-04-15 to fix the link to the Kickstarter.)

This is NOT a sponsored post, and I am NOT a developer of this game. What I am, however, is an avid fan of Super Plexis. I want to see this game succeed, and if I can persuade even one of my readers to support it, I will have accomplished something.

If you are a reader of this blog, you are almost certainly a fan of puzzles. The puzzles on this blog (both logical and lexical) can be printed out and enjoyed at your own pace. However, I am also a longtime fan of action puzzle games, games like Tetris and Dr. Mario which challenge the player to think on their toes. Ever since playing a demo of Tetris Attack (which has nothing to do with Tetris) on a hotel room TV when the game was brand new, said game has been one of my absolute favorite action puzzle games of all time. I have also played two of its follow-ups, Pokémon Puzzle League for Nintendo 64 and Planet Puzzle League for Nintendo DS. A small developer called Medley Studio is working on a game called Super Plexis which promises to take the fast-paced gameplay of Tetris Attack and improve it in many ways. This isn't some crappy knock-off like "Rhythm Heaven-Fever" for iOS; this is a genuinely awesome game, which I have been very excited about ever since I started beta-testing it last October. They currently have a Kickstarter running, and they're 30% of the way to their goal of $6,000.

If you own an iOS device (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch), then you don't have to back the Kickstarter on completely blind faith; you can download the demo of Super Plexis for the low, low price of free. I've ranted against the freemium business model before, but this game is designed much differently than typical freemium games. The monetization is through short ads at the end of every round of play. (Hey, it's less invasive than having ads show up over the game, especially in a fast-paced game where you don't want to tap ads on accident.) For in-game currency called Lumina that can either be purchased for about $4 or earned through playing the game a lot (you get 1 Lumina per block you clear, and you get bonus Lumina for earning Experience Points and leveling up, or completing certain objectives in Adventure mode), you can block those ads forever. You can also use that currency to unlock new characters, new skins for those characters, new block skins, and new icons to use in multiplayer mode. Aside from the characters you unlock (who are, at least hopefully theoretically, balanced with the two you have from the start) and the ad blocker, everything you buy is purely cosmetic and gives you no gameplay advantage. You're not buying energy that will only last you a short period of time like in most freemium games, which are designed to milk whales out of thousands of dollars; you're buying things you permanently unlock. Overall, I think Super Plexis approaches the freemium model in a way that has earned my goodwill and my money. Don't own an iOS device? An Android version is reportedly on its way, and if the Kickstarter reaches its $20,000 stretch goal, they promise to port the game to Nintendo Switch(!!!). Also, you can learn more about the game by following the Medley Studio Twitch channel, and watch the game played live (or watch the VOD's of past streams).

The Super Plexis Kickstarter page gives you a ton of information on the game, so I shan't reiterate much of it here. If you're familiar with Tetris Attack already, the main differences to be aware of are as follows:

  • You can swap blocks vertically now, in addition to horizontally.
  • In Tetris Attack, you can only build up a chain by having blocks that were above cleared ones fall and themselves clear upon landing. In Super Plexis, in addition to this tactic, now called "chain combos", you can now clear groups of 4 or more blocks in rapid succession to extend the size of your chain combo. This tends to be a much faster way to build a chain combo, but is uses more blocks, so there's a trade off.
  • In Super Plexis, as with the garbage blocks in Tetris Attack, the dead blocks are transformed into normal blocks by clearing normal blocks adjacent to them. Only the dead blocks immediately touching the cleared blocks get transformed, but if you clear a group of 4 or more blocks next to the dead blocks, you'll transform deeper layers of dead blocks. This mechanic, like the mechanic above, gives more value to clearing 4 or more blocks at once than the mechanics of Tetris Attack do.
  • Blocks clear much faster, especially the dead blocks, in Super Plexis than in Tetris Attack. Having many garbage blocks on your playfield in Tetris Attack can result in it taking several seconds for the animation of them transforming into regular blocks to finish, giving you plenty of time to make a garbage chain (which is easier than a regular chain and an essential survival skill). Garbage chains in Super Plexis are much, much more difficult, as all garbage blocks transform in approximately one second.
  • Players now compete to deplete each other's health. When your blocks reach the top of the screen, you're in danger of losing health; losing all of your health makes you lose the game. Clearing chain combos sends dead blocks to the opponent, filling their screen up faster. Health can be replenished by clearing randomly-appearing health blocks (the more cleared at once, the greater the health boost). This creates some fantastic tension as one player stats losing a bunch of health, as opposed to in Tetris Attack, where one player just loses in an instant because their blocks hit the top.
  • Players can now select from multiple characters with different stats and abilities. Some are defensive (Vulmir uses bombs to clear blocks and turn dead blocks into normal blocks; Aria clears all blocks of a single color), and some are offensive (Cleff deals direct damage to the opponent; Macktooth freezes many of the opponent's blocks for a few seconds so they can't be cleared or moved, even by gravity). Wromp's ability to slow down time is a hybrid of offensive and defensive, since it both increases the time frame in which you can extend a chain combo and decreases how frequently you take damage from hitting the top.
If you haven't played Tetris Attack, the above stuff will be gobbledygook, at least without more context. So here's a brief overview of the gameplay.

Super Plexis presents the player with a stack of blocks like this:
(I'm stealing one of their screenshots, because I'm lazy and fair use is a thing.)

Blocks continuously spawn from the bottom of the screen, pushing the stack of blocks up towards the ceiling. If the stack hits the ceiling and nothing is done about it, the player will start losing health. To prevent this, the player must swap blocks up, down, left, and right to make horizontal and vertical matching lines of 3 or more. The instructions take great pain to point out that, unlock the match-3 games which have flooded the mobile market which are clones of Bejewled, you can swap blocks even if they don't produce a match; you can move blocks freely. You can even swap a block left or right with an empty space, which is great for leveling out a lopsided stack like the one pictured above.

The primary skill in this game is in forming chain combos. The concept is easier to explain with a video than with text, so I shall pilfer their short video demonstrating the concept:
There is a very improvisational nature to making chain combos in Super Plexis; rather than having to plan out the whole thing in advance, you can get the chain combo started and extend it as it it detonates. It takes much practice to get the skill down, but when you do, it feels highly rewarding. (Can you match my largest combo of 40 links?) As mentioned above, clearing more than 3 blocks at a time (whether through a line of 4 or more blocks, or through two or more lines at the same time) will extend your chain combo as well, giving you unprecedented freedom to make chain combos

The main mode is the versus mode, which can be played online against a human or offline against the AI. There is also a practice mode where you try to survive for as long as possible and play for a high score, and an adventure mode in the works where you solve puzzles and accomplish goals to progress. The available levels provide a good teaser for what's to come in future updates.

Every dollar pledged towards the Kickstarter will help make the game better, but larger pledges earn larger rewards. You can even leave your mark on the game for $75 and commission a custom portrait for online versus, or pledge even more to suggest custom block skins, custom challenges for Adventure Mode, or even custom characters. If you can't afford a $75 pledge, you can still get great stuff like the game soundtrack and Shop Tokens to buy stuff from the shop without Lumina. Whatever you can afford, I hope you can join me in supporting this excellent game.

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