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Hugh Likes Video Games: Tetris 99

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Tetris 99
Published by Nintendo
Developed by Akira
Played on Nintendo Switch

The Skinny: A fast and furious Battle Royale game I’m actually good at.

Tetris 99 is a new, free multiplayer version of the venerable puzzle game available for the Nintendo Switch. But the twist is, you aren’t playing against your friends, but 98 strangers in a fast-paced elimination competition in the style of Battle Royale games like PUBG and Fortnite.
Play options are barebones, with the option to enter battle, look at your stats, or change your control scheme slightly. The game starts out as straightforward Tetris. Shapes composed of four colorful blocks drop from the ceiling, and it is your job to arrange them into lines, which disappear. If the pile of lines reaches the top of your screen, you’re out. The multiplayer twist is that if you eliminate more than one line at a time, you’ll send those extra lines to another player to have them appear as ‘garbage blocks’ in their play area. In Tetris 99, you can choose who you want to attack with the analog sticks and control the falling pieces with the directional buttons.
This version feels very different from traditional Tetris, tying the challenge not to maintaining a long run with ever increasing difficulty, but to weathering the random storms of garbage blocks that come in unpredictably. It’s also very short. Matches take only a few minutes, depending on skill and luck, and it’s easy to get back into the next one, leading to a strong impulse to play just one more match.
As someone who was an expert back in the days of Game Boy, but hasn’t played too much Tetris since, I wished the game gave me more information about how it tracks my stats, and had more options for controls. Currently, it uses the analog sticks to control who you are attacking and the directional buttons to control your pieces, with no way to switch between the two. But those are minor quibbles for a fun, addictive little free game that is doing more to justify the cost of Nintendo’s Online Service than anything else on the platform.
You can download Tetris 99 for free from the Nintendo Switch estore.
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Hugh Likes Video Games: Donut County

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Donut County
Created by Ben Esposito
Published by Annapurna Interactive
Played on PS4

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The Skinny: A charming and funny story-heavy puzzle game about stealing garbage.

The raccoons run Donut County. In a physics puzzle game that homages Katamari Damacy and is almost as strange, You play as BK, Donut County Delivery Raccoon, but your real job is stealing all the town’s garbage (and people, buildings, and geographical features) for the nefarious Trash King.
Each small, self-contained level puts you in the driver’s seat of a hole, which like in Katamari, starts out small and gets bigger the more stuff you grab. Each level has its own mechanical puzzle, from destroying an amusement park to making soup. All of these mechanics are intuitive and fun to use, if a bit on the easy side.
Controls on the PS4 used the buttons and analog stick. It is also available on Steam and Apple devices, and it feels like the game was meant to be played on a touchscreen. Not that it plays badly, in fact, just the opposite. The hole feels a little too responsive to the analog stick, and I was left wondering if playing with touch controls would’ve been a greater challenge.
The story is light-hearted and fun with a large cast of different denizens to hassle and eventually capture. The first half of the game is a sort of trial, as each of the town’s residents relate how BK stole all their stuff and trapped them underground, and then BK’s friend and coworker Mara figuring out how to fix everything. The visuals have a very PS2-era quality to them, but the designs are cute and the whole game is fairly attractive, even with blocky polygons. The soundtrack, by Daniel Koestner with Ben Esposito, is very chill and relaxing. This is a great game to unwind with.
While it isn’t the most taxing puzzle game I’ve played this year, Donut County is a great puzzle game to play with your kids, or to relax with. You can find it on Steam, the Playstation Store, or the Apple Store.

Hugh Likes Video Games: Letter Quest Remastered

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Letter Quest: Grimm’s Journey Remastered
Bacon Bandit Games
Played on PS Vita
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On the whole, I’ve never gotten into touchscreen games on the PS Vita. The functionality works for the most part, but feels imprecise and gimmicky when I have a suite of perfectly good buttons right there. Which is why I was pleasantly surprised by Letter Quest: Grimm’s Journey Remastered.
An enhanced port of a computer puzzle game, Letter Quest is a riff on the Puzzle Quest formula of mixing turn-based RPG and Puzzle Game mechanics. The twist is that the game in question is Boggle rather than Bejeweled. Players have a grid of fifteen letters to arrange into words using the touch screen, which works remarkably well here. Each letter scores points which the hero, a cute cartoon death named ‘Grimm’ turns into damage against an enemy. Each level has a few enemies that have different stats and abilities in addition to attacking the hero. For example, they can change the letters on you tiles or give your tiles nasty effects like poison or spikes for a few turns. Outside of combat, players can level up their abilities or tweak the design on their scythe or tile sets.
The puzzle combat is simple and addictive, as it should be. While the ability to level up attacks and boost particular word damage can allow children or limited wordsmiths to power through, the game has a long list of bonus objectives for completionists or players looking for a greater challenge.
As for the design, the monster and character designs are cute, and the remastered scores are pleasant but repetitive, but there isn’t much here in terms of plot. What story there is gets laid out through a set of comic panels players unlock as they progress. It’s all inconsequential and breezy, and seems almost as though these were assets left over from another project, but they all work well enough. The design doesn’t feel the need to justify itself, it’s just a pleasant background to try and rack up a ten-letter SAT word against. But that’s just fine for the price.
Letter Quest Remastered is a pleasant diversion for bibliophiles of all stripes. I played it as a part of Sony’s PS Plus collection, but it, or its slightly downgraded predecessor, is available on just about every console or mobile device store.

Hugh Likes Video Games: Steamworld Dig

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SteamWorld Dig
Image and Form Games
Played on PS Vita
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SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt is a quirky indie platformer.  You play as Rusty, a young steam-powered robot called to a tiny frontier town by his miner uncle. The first thing he has to do, however, is solve his mysterious death.  He left Rusty his mine, so the plan is to dig it out, look for clues, and get upgrades from helpful towns-bots on the surface.
SWD is a fun and colorful game with controls that are very easy to pick up.  As you mine valuables and delve deeper, you come across tougher materials and enemies, but gain access to upgrades and better tools.  The balance is nicely tuned to provide a gently sloping difficulty curve.  There are also plenty of hidden areas and secrets to reach once you upgrade your abilities.
The designs are appealing and fun as well.  The post-human wild west setting is delightful and slightly off-putting at the same time, especially when you start running into irradiated survivors in the underground caves.The only major downside to the game is that it is rather short, even for a puzzle-platformer, and the physics puzzles themselves aren’t too taxing.  With only three main sections, The game can be fully cleared in only a few hours.  There have been further games teased in the “Steamworld” line, so hopefully this will only be a teaser of greater things to come.  As it is, “SteamWorld Dig: A fistful of Dirt” is a fantastic platformer for younger gamers, or a worthwhile afternoon distraction for veterans.