Piyo Blocks 2 Review
The cutest match-3 game on the App Store, Piyo Blocks, hardly needed a sequel. It seemed already complete, offering simple yet compulsive gameplay and a fully-formed aesthetic. Piyo Blocks 2 initially seems like an advertisement for Piyo Blocks 2 HD, the new iPad edition that features redone visuals and a simultaneous two-player mode. As it turns out, it’s a valuable new expansion. Big Pixel has tweaked the game in small but significant ways.
Like the original, Piyo Blocks 2 has you fighting a timer by matching and eliminating cuddly blocks of three like colors. In Piyo Mode, you have to eliminate a target number of each color to gain levels, which also increases your target. In Hyaku Mode, you level up by hitting 99 of any color, and in Time Attack mode, you try to gain as many levels as you can while the timer constantly runs down.
Piyo Blocks 2 adds a fourth way of playing called Three Second Mode. Here the timer lasts only three seconds, and you make any match to reset the timer and keep the game going. The differences between these modes are subtle, but offer noticeably different angles on the basic match-3 mechanic.
While it’s obviously kept the wide-eyed blocks and girl mascot, Piyo Blocks 2 still looks and feels different enough from Piyo Blocks to seem like a sequel. The 7×7 grid is one column larger than the last game’s, the blocks look shinier and less pixelated, and perhaps more importantly, the music has changed. The original game was set to a nervous, arcade-style loop that fostered a hardcore, twitch style of play. This one uses a hypnotic, cascading loop that encourages longer play sessions because it’s altogether more subdued. This game is less of a sensory overload than a dreamy escape.
Piyo Blocks 2 also benefits from new power-ups, earned by matching four or five blocks or pulling off combos. A flashing Super Piyo makes blocks disappear at random; a Melon Bomb zaps its surroundings when tapped; and a Metal Block wipes out the column below if you clear the block it sits on. Crazy Cat wipes out an entire row, and Fruit and Coins from Piyo Block Girl can be tapped for extra points. Along with the new music, these gameplay accents mean Piyo Blocks 2 holds up far longer than its predecessor.
A new two-player mode has players racing each other to outlast the timer. Making combos charges up attacks that summon new cartoonish characters and obstruct your opponent. Multiplayer is limited to local Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, unfortunately, which means most will struggle to find an opponent. The option to play against a bot in a future update would be welcome, since battles are the sequel’s biggest addition.
Rounding out the sequel are the ability to issue challenges to OpenFeint friends and view pages of your achievements within the game interface. These speak to how Big Pixel has smartly grown the template — they hardly alter the main game, but the game as a whole feels more complete, substantial and satisfying than Piyo Blocks, which seems more like a distraction. Unlike much of the match-3 competition, Piyo Blocks 2 is a diversion you can sink into.