By Phil Schipper / April 1st, 2013
|Release Date||December 1999|
|Platforms||TI-83 Plus, TI-84 Plus|
|Age Rating||None given|
Update: This is an April Fools Joke for 2013.
Here at Operation Rainfall, our motto is no game left behind. In this interest, we decided to feature some of the less well-known systems for playing games, including the TI-83 and TI-84 calculators (after all, who doesn’t love playing games in class when the teacher doesn’t suspect a thing?) When this happened, I knew just where to start: with Puzzle Pack.
Puzzle Pack comes pre-installed on Silver Edition calculators, and it consists of four minigames: Dino Puzzle, Puzzle Frenzy, Block Dude, and Pegs. Let’s have a look at each one in turn.
Dino Puzzle is an extremely simple game. Several types of tiles come in from the right side of the screen and settle on the left in four rows. Your job is to switch the rows around so that the tiles that come in will match up in pairs. Since there are really only a few tile types, this seems like a ridiculously easy task, but like Tetris, the tiles will start to come in faster and faster, and when your rows build up all the way to the right, it’s game over. This is a high-score game that encourages quick thinking, but it’s really an extremely simple setup. In my opinion, this game is the weakest part of the Puzzle Pack lineup, as one go is enough to make you wish you were playing Tetris instead.
Any way you look at it, Puzzle Frenzy is a Bejeweled ripoff. You move the cursor around and switch tiles to make rows of three. However, the game modes are quite different. Endless mode does feature a sort of frantic quality to it, as the tiles slowly move towards the right side of the screen. Needless to say, you have to eliminate them as fast as you can in order to stop them reaching the edge. On the other hand, Puzzle mode allows you to stop and think: it gives you a specific scenario, and you have to eliminate all of the blocks in a limited number of moves, often no more than 1 or 2. Puzzle Frenzy definitely benefits from having both of these modes, depending on what you’re looking for in a puzzle game.
Oh, boy. Block Dude. Block Dude is easily the most compelling part of Puzzle Pack, although it’s also one of the most frustrating of its games. My friends have wasted many class periods borrowing my calculator to play Block Dude. The goal of the game is to get the titular Dude up to a door to complete the level. Unfortunately, Block Dude cannot jump, so in order to get up to ledges and across gaps, he will have to lift up blocks and stack them. Soon you’ll be building and unbuilding block staircases just to get more blocks, and you have to be careful not to put them in forms where the Dude can’t pick them up. Though it only features 11 levels, they have a stark difficulty curve, and the constant menace of making an irreversible mistake–and having to start over–can really make the game a lot longer.
Like Block Dude, Pegs is a game of navigating a map and trying not to make a fatal mistake. Your cursor has to move around and push the pegs until they hit an identically-shaped peg or fall into a pit, to various effects. Plus signs, for example, turn into whatever other block type you’d like when you match them up, allowing you to resolve an odd number of pegs. Squares fill in gaps you push them into, which allows you to go over them but takes away your chance to push other blocks into them. Triangles, upon being pushed together, make more solid blocks to navigate past, making them the worst pegs in the game. Pegs has a lot more levels than Block Dude, and can take a bit more effort to wrap your mind around, so it’s a good place to continue when you’ve conquered Block Dude’s challenges.
Overall, Puzzle Pack is a great way to exercise your brain when you don’t want to actually think (ya know, in class). It’s certainly a lot more fun than paying attention, and considering the system’s limitations (black and white pixels, no sound), Detached Solutions has created something that too many people overlook.
Stay tuned for our next calculator review: Rational Number Rampage!
Review copy purchased by the author.
Detached SolutionspuzzlePuzzle PackPuzzPackTI-83 PlusTI-84 Plus