It's interesting to look at where AAA games are today with their inflated budgets, teams of hundreds, and marketing campaigns that intrude on us everywhere we look, and then recall how it all used to be. Games like Tetris
laid the groundwork (fine, pun intended) upon which the gaming industry could build. They were simpler games from a time when the technology was still new to so many curious developers. Tetris
is remembered today as an all-time classic game and its influence has been found over the decades in countless other games. The latest title to join the ranks of Tetris
-likes is Kittehface Software's Anode
. With that, it's safe to say that the legacy is in good hands.Anode
is a falling block puzzler with a futuristic aesthetic. Players can compete for high scores across several different game modes, including couch competitive play, thankfully. The basis of the game is irrefutably Tetris
-like, but the gameplay mechanics are different enough to stand on their own. As the multi-colored blocks fall into your "bin", you can rotate, align, and place them how you best see fit. Rather than building horizontal lines, you'll be tasked with placing each of the five identical colors together. Most blocks serve no function but detonator blocks will enter the bin randomly and less frequently. Placing these directly beside, above, below, or diagonal to the same colored blocks will cause a chain explosion, eliminating all of them that were connected. Coupler blocks also allow you to connect two differently colored blocks or chains of blocks to extend the scoring streaks to sometimes epic proportions. It's very satisfying to build up a chain of blocks, drop the detonator, and watch them all erupt, transmuting into points towards your score. The longer that you hold out, the faster the blocks will fall.
You can combat the unrelenting pace with power-ups that are gifted to you after every chain of seven or more blocks is destroyed. Achieving such a milestone should happen several times throughout any decent run across the game's varied modes, but it's keeping up your sequence score, essentially the oft-used multiplier, that will separate the adequate from the exceptional in Anode
. The game does give you a brief tutorial when you first begin, but still I was lost for a few levels. Once I got the hang of things, I really began to appreciate the game's merits. In its simplicity there is a lot to be enjoyed.
My lame attempt before I knew what was going on.
Each game mode keeps the objectives varied enough to alter the way that you play. As its name suggests, Endless mode lets you play until you lose, giving you freeform control over what sort of goals and milestones you might want to achieve while you can. Mission mode submits randomized objectives to you where you can only advance when your current objective has been accomplished, no matter the mess of blocks that you might have on screen. Time Attack dares you to hold out for a specific amount of time. They're each worth trying, although you may soon grow attached to one over the rest. Each mode is also available in local multiplayer, too, and the game's same attractive simplicity is ever-present in the game's enjoyable competitive gameplay. If there's a criticism to be found, it's that the game doesn't try to move the genre in any way beyond the chain reactions that are required to advance in the game, and even those bits are akin to a match-three type of puzzler. The modes are all fun and varied, but all so familiar.
Despite the sometimes hectic speed of the game, I found it oddly relaxing in a way that few games are. Primarily factoring into this sentiment is the game's short but sweet synthpop soundtrack. There are only a small handful of songs, but each of them were fitting for the game's space station visuals. The gameplay is enough to merit somewhat lax and extended play sessions on its own, but given the visual-only necessity of the genre, one might have muted it to listen instead to podcasts or music, but it's best to not do so in this case. The music is a stellar accompaniment.
Couplers help bridge two colors together, which can lead to some of the best scores in the game.
The achievement list
is actually quite fun and can relinquish unlocks to players at a satisfying pace with any skill, or luck, or both
. You'll need to play all of the game modes, achieve milestones in each of them, and play lots of multiplayer
. However, the number of multiplayer games that are needing to be played is weirdly inaccurate. Each of the milestones, 10, 50, and 150 games played, unlock after just half the number. It was a pleasant surprise to see them each pop at the midway point. It might also be worth noting that Anode
's list features two odd numbered achievements, one for 21 gamerscore and the other for 9. If you're the type (like me) who doesn't like your gamerscore to end in anything other than a multiple of five, just be aware that unlocking one
of them may make you strongly feel that you have to unlock the other
, as well. Neither is too difficult, however.
is a highly replayable falling block puzzler whose only major flaw comes in its indifference toward advancing the genre in any way. It's a mostly been-there-done-that offering that manages to change up just enough to merit playing alongside similar titles. The limited but excellent soundtrack and local competitive modes make the overall package well worth playing if you're a fan of this type of game. Just don't expect anything groundbreaking -- pun intended, again.
- Simple yet very fun gameplay
- Limited but superb soundtrack
- Local multiplayer fits perfectly
- Dares not to advance its genre in almost any measurable way
- Buggy achievements might need extra attention
The reviewer spent four hours matching colors, blowing them up, and hard-resetting his Xbox One to try to get the achievements to pop thanks to Xbox Live issues. He officially unlocked 18 of 33 achievements, with another four stuck in limbo at time of publication. A copy was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.