Demolishing more squares than the '60s.
I'm a sucker for addictive puzzle games. Throw me a controller and fire up Puzzle Fighter, and four hours later you'll have to drag me away from the TV. It's always refreshing to see a puzzle game try to do something new, even if it doesn't really work out. Especially in this genre where it's almost too easy to make a clone of something popular (i.e. Tetris) rather than something innovative.
[image1]At first glance, Bittos+ indeed looks like a Tetris clone, considering that the seven block shapes are the exact same ones in the original Tetris. Come to think of it, since the gameplay involves you placing those blocks wherever you can fit them on any part of the board, Bittos+ is actually reminiscent of the highly underrated Tetrisphere on N64. So yeah, I guess it's not as innovative as it could be, but there are enough differences in the gameplay to put this game somewhere in the realm between clone and trailblazer.
Speaking of the gameplay, here's an overview: place Bits on the Board. Bits combine to make Blocks. Blocks combine to make Bittos. Bittos explode so you can place more Bits. If you can't make sense of all those B-words, don't worry, neither did I. Reading the instructions for this game only made me Beg for more Booze for my Brain. I'll try to give you a simpler version: You want to place your Tetris blocks down on the grid to form square shapes. Even leaving a hole here or there is okay, although it's better if you don't. As long as the individual units on the grid continue to form some type of square with their neighbors, you're doing well.
When bits get left isolated for too long, however, they “solidify” and turn red, clogging up the board. If left alone even longer, the red bits will multiply and overrun you. Therefore, it's in your best interest to place pieces as fast as possible. That being said, the pace at which you drop blocks is entirely up to you, which is easily the best quality of the game.
There's no time limit on how long you have to drop a block. You can control the flow of the game dynamically simply by placing pieces faster or slower. Want to work on your combos? Increase your pace. Oops, did that make you screw up from not thinking out your placement enough? Just dial it back and go slower.
[image2]Going faster, though, will inevitably rack up higher scores, as will creating “chains”. I'm not even going to try explaining a chain because it's not at all like chains in games you may be familiar with like Puzzle Fighter, Bejeweled, or Puyo Pop. Suffice it to say, once you get the hang of it, you can keep it going pretty long and significantly improve your scores.
That also brings me to Bittos+'s biggest downfall. Unconditional Studios wants you to compete with your friends and family for high scores. In other words, they didn't include a multiplayer mode. In this day and age, multiplayer in a puzzle game is an absolute must. Single player is pretty fun once you get the hang of it, but multiplayer is where a puzzle game gets the bulk of its replay value. There's just only so much time you can spend by yourself putting blocks on a grid. It's a shame, because given the frantic pace that you can reach in single player (if you so choose), I can only imagine how zany a two-player matchup could be. The addition of a multiplayer mode alone would have bumped the grade up two levels in my book.
Aesthetically, the game is pretty lacking. It's just a Wiiware game, so it's not too big a deal, but it's still worth mentioning. There's only a handful of tunes, and while none of them are off-putting, the lack of variety is. Worse, there's just nothing to look at other than the board. The backgrounds are static pictures of nature and there are very few of them to boot. I would have loved some more interesting images, or even better, some scrolling artwork to please the eye while you endlessly drop blocks on a simplistic grid.
Bittos+ is an engaging puzzle experience and worth 800 Wiiware points. However, it's impossible to ignore the missed potential: It could have been bigger and more attractive without too much extra work. As it stands now, this is a concept for a puzzle game that I look forward to seeing refined for a more polished release in the future. That might truly be doubleplus good.