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Why We Love Puzzlejuice

Puzzlejuice is a puzzle game whose individual components are all likely to be very familiar to most players. Blocks of different shapes fall from the top of a well and need to be arranged and fit together, as in Tetris. Colors need to be matched up in groups of at least three, with larger matches providing greater rewards. We’ve seen that idea in countless match-3 games over the years. Finally, words must be created using adjacent letters, in a manner not far off from the classic party game Boggle.

On a fundamental level, most of us can deal with one or two of those elements at a time. But in joining them all together, Puzzlejuice becomes a whole other animal. It’s like an Ironman Triathlon of puzzle gaming, and if you falter at any of the three events, you’re going to run into trouble in a hurry. Piecing together the falling blocks without leaving gaps is easy enough, but you’ll also want to make sure the colors are lining up as you do it.

Sometimes leaving a gap is the lesser of two evils. Groups of colors can be converted into letters at your discretion, but when shoul d you do it? Is it better to cash them out into letters when you have a group of three, or is it smarter to wait so that you can generate as many letters as possible by completing rows? While you’re busy spelling out words, or even seeking them, the blocks continue to fall. How long can you afford to ignore them? As things speed up, you’ll need to take care of these tasks with less time to think about them. Letters you’ve ignored because they were difficult to use start to pile up. There’s the pressure that makes calamity of longer Puzzlejuice sessions.

Indeed, Puzzlejuice can be quite tough to wrap your head around when you first start playing. It feels a bit like trying to keep multiple plates spinning without letting them fall. Luckily, the game is gentle to the starting player. It allows you to spell small, simple words to clear the clutter. It feeds you missions that will teach you the mechanics. The speed doesn’t kick up all that much. After you reach a certain point, you’ll be asked if you want to try a harder version. If you’re ready, you can move to a more challenging set of rules, but if not? Feel free to keep enjoying the game as it is.

One helpful assist comes in the form of the game’s power-ups. You’ll unlock these by completing missions, and once you do they can be used during your play sessions. You can have up to three of the seven power-ups activated for each session, allowing you to select the ones that you feel will help you most. If you’re the sort that has trouble matching up the pieces neatly, you may want to use the power-ups that remove pieces from the pile. If it’s making words that causes you issues, there are power-ups that can give you a hand with that. 

Eventually things will click in your mind, and that’s when Puzzlejuice really starts to show its brilliance. When you aren’t having to give your entire focus to surviving, you’re able to engage with the combo system and scoring. Get a handle on that, and you’ll start racking up some serious high scores. Before long, you’ll probably be comfortable trying out some of the other modes. There are two higher difficulty settings, which require you to spell longer words and increase the speed of the falling pieces. There’s also the Zen mode, which gives you a set amount of time to earn as high a score as possible without the pressure of falling pieces.

Between the different modes, multiple difficulty levels, and selections of power-ups, Puzzlejuice is able to become whatever experience you’re looking for. Just want to relax by clearing some clutter? Stick to the lowest difficulty setting in normal mode and chill out. Looking for some white-knuckle pressure? Impossible mode is for you. Looking to challenge your vocabulary? Euro Extreme mode won’t accept any words under five letters. Bring whatever power-ups best help you, or lean into the challenge by leaving them at home. Not looking for a big commitment? Zen Mode Extreme sessions never last longer than a minute-and-a-half.

However you choose to play Puzzlejuice, you’ll have a good time with its interesting combination of mechanics and excellent presentation. While a simple description of the game might make it sound like it’s punishingly hard, it’s actually quite friendly even at its hardest. It does take a little while to sort out its various components in your mind, but once you do, Puzzlejuice is an excellent way to get a brain workout.

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