Puzzlejuice absolutely resists any attempt at reverse-engineering. While it’s patently the product of combining three existing games – Boggle, Tetris, and, to a lesser extent Bejeweled – the end result feels nothing like any of them. Sort falling blocks, transform them into letters, and then match those letters into words: it’s simple in theory, but if you play it on the hardest difficulty – which you should – it leaves your brain with no time to settle on any one element. The puzzle doesn’t lie with the words or the blocks or the colours, then – the puzzle lies in switching your attention between the three at speed.
It’s mayhem, but it’s elegantly handled, with the first wave of challenge revolving around pure spatial reasoning. Puzzlejuice’s tetronimos are carved up into different colours, and your job is to either sort them into completed rows, which immediately turns them all into letters, or shuffle them into groups of more than three same-coloured tiles, which will allow you to then tap them and transform them into letters that way.
Revealing the letters won’t clear the blocks away, however, so in order to stop the playing field from filling up, you have to change tack, picking out words from the jumble you’ve been left with. Completed words will take out any tiles that touch them – on the lowest difficulty, three-letter words are good enough, but the game really gets fun when only five letters or more make the cut – and there are power-ups that drop in now and then to mix things around a little, freezing the flow of new blocks, say, or blowing existing blocks off the screen entirely. A multiplier, meanwhile, encourages you to match words at speed to keep your combo from collapsing. If Spelltower was the word game as survival horror, Puzzlejuice is the word game as fast-paced action-adventure – and it’s particularly stressful if you play it on the time-limited Zen mode.
There’s a further layer of extrinsic rewards, which sees players tasked with beating a series of challenges that call to mind the endlessly shifting missions of Jetpack Joyride. In truth, Puzzlejuice is sufficiently compulsive to look after itself without all that. They detract little from this ingenious package, however – the slightly primitive block-handling controls aren’t too much of a problem either – while Asher Vollmer’s magpie design approach blends beautifully with Greg Wohlwend’s luminously flat pastel-coloured art.
Puzzlejuice may ultimately be too hectic and exhausting to stay on the front page of your iDevice forever, but it’s the perfect game for an unhealthy binge every few days. Enjoy it as much as you can, and try not to burn yourself out for good.