Some magicians don’t get to save a fantasy realm or mentor a boy wizard. Instead, they’re stuck building infinite towers — and it’s great.
99 Bricks is essentially Tetris without the well, and with quite a lot of strangely angry magicians. As a young apprentice, you’re charged with building huge towers from familiar puzzle pieces, for reasons unknown; and because of pesky universal laws such as gravity, you must take great care to slot the various bits together, so your tower doesn’t wobble and collapse.
The basic premise (tower-building mixed with something like Tetris) is one we’ve seen before on the iPhone — in fact, one of the earliest games on the system, Ngmoco’s Topple, was essentially the same thing. But 99 Bricks excels through a combination of polish, personality and progression.
Most importantly, it’s all very intuitive. You swipe and tap to, respectively, move and rotate a falling piece, and a subtle column of light helpfully shows where it will end up. As you work your way through 99 Bricks, you’re gradually armed with spells by your mentor, which add some depth to what would otherwise be a very simple game and make your life a little easier. One spell, for example, gives you an extra platform on which to build, while another petrifies a piece whenever it hits another, potentially stabilizing a wobbly tower.
The flip side of the game is everyone else in this strange and magical world appears to be furious at your tower-building exploits. As your tower reaches for the stars, these jealous wizards will use their own magic to take you down in various ways: one turns a handful of blocks to ice, and another unleashes ‘the phoenix’, a fat bird that knocks out of the sky any puzzle piece it collides with. With experience, you learn how to counter or avoid their challenges, and can satisfyingly eventually take them out of the equation entirely by stealing their staffs via the in-game shop.
It all stacks up
Before you run a mile, said shop isn’t some kind of IAP nightmare. Instead, 99 Bricks takes a leaf from Ridiculous Fishing, giving you a logical kind of continual development and advancement regarding your arsenal, through items entirely purchased by coins collected from your exploits in the game itself.
During testing, we found 99 Bricks fairly generous. Every brick laid gets you a coin. As you reach specific heights, your entire tower to that point petrifies solid and the multiplier ramps up, meaning more coins per brick. Additionally, each level of the game is framed as a diploma for your apprentice to complete through a set of challenges, and doing so gets him yet more coins. The system is smart, and keeps you playing when the mere prospect of a new high-score alone might not.
There are some niggles. One misplaced block is sometimes enough to wreck a potentially amazing tower (although carefully stored spells can sometimes counteract any errors, and a lightning strike spell can be used to fry the previous piece entirely), and the controls are a touch slippery when tackling the game’s fastest speeds. However, perseverance deals with both issues, provides access to yet more goodies in the game’s store, and rewards you with one of the smartest and most fun iPhone puzzlers in recent months.
Price: $2.99 / £1.99
Size: 69.3 MB