No matter how much you yearn for them, the old days are never coming back. Take a trip down your local arcade in 2010 – if you still have one – and you’re more likely to find a collection of dusty old units covered in chewing gum than you are the bright and gleaming games that once dominated the floor. But all is not lost for those chasing a slice of former glories. Some new games, like Kerplinkus, do a good job of recapturing those golden moments.
Simplicity is the key here. Kerplinkus comes with the kind of graphics that wouldn’t have looked out of place on those very same arcade cabinets 20 or 30 years ago, the gameplay merging classics like Tetris with more modern releases such as Jewel Quest.
It’s perhaps the latter that will initially spring to mind when play kicks off, but this is no match-3 puzzler. Instead, your job is to link up just two matching symbols, reordering the stacks of squares at the bottom so that they pair up with the blocks falling from the top of the screen.
In this sense, your only input is to swap the blocks around, tapping one and then tapping another to switch their positions. Match them up correctly and the resulting collision takes out both squares, helping to clear the screen and stop the blocks piling up. Get it wrong, and in true Tetris style, the very opposite takes hold, any contact with the top of the map bringing play to an abrupt end.
Binary Square describes the action as like “spinning plates,” and in truth, that’s a fairly accurate take on events. You’re essentially charged with managing all eight lines of squares in one go. Get one match-up wrong as the sky begins raining cubes, and the whole thing quickly falls apart. This is certainly not a game for those who get easily flustered.
It also has the odd moment that, perhaps, isn’t entirely fair. Given that whole lines can actually be cleared in quick time (it’s possible to take out the squares below the one at the top of the pile if they too match-up with the falling cube), it’s a little frustrating to see them fill up again, as it’s impossible to swap an existing square with an empty slot.
It doesn’t stop there, either. If you’ve got ahead of the game and taken out cubes aplenty, there’s a fair chance you won’t have a matching square in your pile. While this set-up essentially adds longevity to Kerplinkus, ensuring the game is always a challenge even when the difficulty is set to easy, it also unfairly punishes those who simply have an aptitude for its style of play. It’s very hard, almost impossible, to stay on top for long.
Regardless, Kerplinkus is the kind of game that’s an ideal filler for the odd five minutes rather than hour long sessions. If, by hook or by crook, you do fall foul, it’s far more likely you’ll just have another go at scaling its heights, rather than venting your anger by giving up entirely.
The key to the game’s appeal is that it looks far simpler to master than it actually is – you’re always convinced that your next crack of the whip will be an all-conquering one. Even with its faults, by managing to keep players engaged to the bitter end, Kerplinkus is the perfect match-up for those looking for an enthralling, retro-themed puzzler.