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Genre: Puzzle & Trivia
Min OS X: 10.2    CPU: Any CPU @ 500 MHz

Pile & Pop
July 10, 2007 | Michael Scarpelli

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Her name is Tisylee and I have no idea why she's here.
You may need to steel yourself for this review. Iím going to unveil a staggering new concept on you. Are you ready? Itís going to be the next hot thing in gaming, let me tell you. Here it is: you take these blocks, and theyíre different colors and then you match them with other blocks of the same color and they disappear. But thatís not all. Over time, even more color blocks come up from the bottom of the screen, and you need to keep matching. Itís the future, I tell you!

Sarcasm aside, this is exactly what Pile & Pop is, a color matching block game. I donít mean to imply that making a matching game is an ignoble enterprise, lord knows itís the gateway drug for many, many casual game makers, but Pile & Pop is block matching in a pure form, by which I mean totally ungarnished by features.

Just because a game has a simple premise doesnít mean it has to be a simple title. Games like Qbeez2 and Super Collapse 3 manage to take very simplistic gaming (click on blocks to clear sections of matching colors) and turn them in dynamic, full-featured games with tons of variety and play modes.

In Pile & Pop, the gaming conceit is slightly different than your normal control scheme. Either by using the left and right mouse buttons or the trackpad button and space bar (or some combination thereof) the gamer picks up blocks and then drops then back in new locations, hoping to make a group of four or more to clear them from the board. When the gamer picks up blocks, theyíll be picked up in color groups, with a max of five blocks. So, you could pick up a pile of three reds, a green and a blue, but you canít only grab one of that group of three reds, they all come up as a package. When blocks drop, if they create new groups of four or more of the same color, then a chain reaction begins.

There are two modes for the game: arcade and strategy. In arcade, blocks will advance steadily on a timed basis. As the gamer makes matches and earns points, the level meter on the right will advance and push the gamer into the next level, at which time the blocks will start to come ever faster from the bottom of the screen.

In strategy mode, the blocks only advance once the gamer drops the pile of blocks that theyíve picked up. As the gamer levels up, more blocks appear with each drop. In both modes of the game, the gamer will accrue power-ups as the progress in levels. These power-ups allow the gamer to change blocks on the field to be wild card blocks, or bomb blocks, or to swap columns, etc. In the strategy mode, the gamer must select these power-ups, and in the arcade mode, you can manually select them, or you can let the game cycle through all the choices on its own. When the tiles get to a certain danger level, the game will automatically trigger one of your power-ups in an attempt to save you. Once a power-up has been used, it takes a certain length of time before it recharges and can be used again.

This is pretty much it for the game. There are 13 gaming trophies to collect which give things some life, but beyond that, the pickings are slim. Thereís a high score list to get on, but itís local to your machine and I had the game quit unexpectedly quite a few times after I tried to enter my score.

What the game does have is a totally random spunky female mascot who seems to only exist to be on the game screen as the tutorial babe, with anime hair and an arm band.

Pile & Pop has a very playable way about it. Thereís just not tons to the game, but whatís there is fun. The problem is that itís not really any fun that I havenít had before in other games, and theyíre charging me $20 for a game that was quite clearly built on the shoulders of many casual gaming giants that came before it. The graphics are decent, but donít stand out or have any real flash to them. The sound is mostly distinguished by some pretty bad elevator muzak. The gameplay is easy to pick up, but also wears itself thin fairly fast. At no point can I figure out why Iím paying as much as I would be for a fantastic title like Qbeez2.

So, download the demo to Pile & Pop because itís definitely good for a quick 20 to 30 minutes of distraction. If you happen to find yourself inexplicably addicted, grab it. It does have a sort of timeless gameplay to it, at once like Tetris and somehow not as satisfying. Most seasoned gamers, though, will realize that theyíve seen this before, and in just about the exact same packaging.

• Simple, fun gameplay

• Virtually no features
• High price tag considering the content
• Weak music

Pile & Pop
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