Upon dropping into doublespeak games‘ Super Gridland, you might mistakenly believe that it’s your typical match-three style puzzle game. Don’t be fooled. There are life or death consequences here. Sure by day things come easy, too easy perhaps, but by night it’s a different story altogether as this simple puzzle game turns into the survivalist RPG of every 90s kid’s worst nightmares.

If you’re looking for a helping hand to get you started, there isn’t one. You are dropped right in the middle of it and expected to figure it out as you go. Trial and error, the old fashioned way. That’s what makes the switch from day to night so terrifying, or exhilarating, depending on your outlook on life. There’s no warning, no legend, no guide. Just a parade of monsters and things that go bump in the night.

You Died

Prepare to see this a lot, at least at first.

It’s certainly possible to defeat the monsters, ghouls and skeletons, but on your first few attempts, you’ll be long dead before you can even start to figure out how. Try not to take it personally. It’s not a failure. It’s a learning experience. Once you can get through the first few nights, you’ll find your sweet spot, get a handle on things and start racking up the kills as long as you don’t forget slow and steady wins the race. Unfortunately, that’s as far as the hints will go, as anything more direct might just spoil the fun.

Super Gridland by night

So what if you’re the kind of person who likes to read the entire Monopoly instruction booklet out loud to your assembled friends and family on game night? Will you enjoy Super Gridland? Well, presuming you survived the game night, absolutely! Just maybe not at first. A little faith in yourself and your abilities will go a long way. If you’re really worried, take heart that it’s not a social game so no one will see how many times you died on the first night. If you’re still scared to stumble, you can even turn down the heat by switching the difficulty from hard (red) to easy (green) in the menu. Just dive in.

For those of us born before the turn of the millennium, the pixelated graphics and midi music also help bring us home to when we first fell in love with video games, well before we had the option to tote dozens of them around in our pockets at all times. For the next generation, Super Gridland offers an authentic retro experience.

Super Gridland by dayMost importantly, Super Gridland is at heart everything a great game should be. It’s fun, challenging, rewarding and more than a little addictive (I wouldn’t recommend picking it up the night before a big presentation at work). It proves that even when we’re swimming in a sea of beautiful big-budget games with intricate storylines and carefully orchestrated soundtracks, sometimes you just can’t beat the simple, the cunning and the just plain fun.

If comparisons to other games have to be made, You Must Build a Boat is the obvious one. Yet, even this doesn’t feel quite right. Unlike YMBAB, Super Gridland is turn-based (don’t worry if it took you several days to realize – it isn’t obvious). This means that if you tackle Super Gridland using the same techniques and strategies that led to success in YMBAB you will die. Really, Super Gridland is an experience all of its own, and should be enjoyed as such.

It’s also a deal. With a reasonable one-time purchase on the App Store and on Google Play, it’s certainly worth taking the chance that you’ll unlock weeks of fun and frustration for less than a fancy cup of coffee. You’ll probably want the coffee too after you’ve poured a few all-nighters into seeing how far you can take things, but the point is if you’re debating whether to give Super Gridland a try, do it. It’s early, but this might just be one of the best games of the year.