Can you get a good gaming experience for the cost of a coffee? This week it's the simplest, most complicated game you'll ever play. Puzzlejuice.

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After playing Sirvo LLC’s other game Threes! last week, I was so impressed that I decided to try out their other iOS title, Puzzlejuice.

Puzzlejuice is quite possibly the simplest, most complicated game you will ever play.  Please be warned, as you launch the tutorial it proudly exclaims that “Puzzlejuice is a game that will punch your brain in the face.”  It’s not joking.  Imagine if Tetris and Bookworm had an illicit affair that resulted in a child, this is that child and it suffers from attention deficit disorder.

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Puzzlejuice is a hybrid game where you begin playing your standard, Tetris style, block drop fayre to make lines and/or match colours.  The touch screen here is nicely implemented as you tap to rotate the block, swipe left and right to position it and down to lock it into place.  Unlike Tetris, when you make a line it doesn’t simply disappear leaving lovely empty space you can fill with more blinking blocks, it turns into a row of letters.  Again when you match 3 or more blocks of any colour you can tap them to create more letters.  To get rid of the blocks, you need to swipe out words made by adjacent letters with your finger, which is much easier on the larger screens of the iPad.

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In the easiest mode, which for full disclosure the game calls ‘Hard Mode’, making any length word will cause those blocks, and any touching them, to explode. In European Extreme mode (don’t think we missed the Metal Gear Solid 2 reference there Puzzlejuice, this is a Codec Moments production after all), words smaller than 5 letters won’t destroy any touching blocks.  Finally in Impossible mode, you are actually penalised for making 3 letter words with a block that can only be destroyed with the Kabomb power-up.  Ah yes, power-ups. You can equip three of the seven available power-ups any time and are unlocked by completing objectives which start out easily enough ‘make a five letter word’, that sort of thing.  Puzzlejuice soon ups the ante though, by forcing you to play in European Extreme mode to continue fulfilling objectives and I’m currently tasked with spelling 20 consecutive words of 4 letters or more, getting a 200 times combo and scoring three million points.  My best score yet is a quarter of that.

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The duality of the game is what makes it a mentally taxing experience.  If you concentrate on placing blocks, the screen fills; if you concentrate on finding words, the blocks quickly fall in inconvenient positions and the screen fills.  I had proposed a study using Puzzlejuice and functional MRI as the definitive test of whether women really can multi-task more proficiently than men; sadly the paradoxical nature of this addictively simple, yet frustratingly complicated concept produced a negative feedback loop between the magnetic field and the first subject’s neural oscillations.  This left them barely able to play Angry Birds and we were forced to degauss the whole of Stevenage. That’s whole with a W.

All in all Puzzlejuice is a good title that keeps you coming back, in the same way a bottle of tequila might; you know it’ll end with a headache, but it’s the journey you’re interested in and not the destination.  It lacks the simple charm and elegance of Threes! however, and as a result, isn’t as much fun to play.  The game is a few pence more than a Solo Macchiato and it’s a good substitute.  Both are addictive, will elevate your blood pressure and cause you to lose sleep; but at £1.49 I think I’d sip on Puzzlejuice every time.

The Verdict


The Good: The simplest, most complicated puzzle game you’ll ever meet

The Bad: It lacks the simple charm and elegance of Threes!

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