STAFF REVIEW of Treasure Stack (Xbox One)

Wednesday, March 27, 2019.
by Adam Dileva

Treasure Stack  Box art Anyone in my age bracket most likely grew up playing some form of Tetris, Columns, Puzzle Fighter or Dr. Mario, and if you were like me, couldn’t get enough of the tried-and-true gameplay. While each of these titles are slightly different from one another, they all share the same core mechanics of utilizing falling blocks to match or create lines to clear components for a higher score. These games were incredibly easy to understand and pickup, but required an exorbitant amount of practice and strategy if you wanted to truly master them.

Enter Treasure Stack, developed by PIXELAKES, they’ve created something very similar to the titles above, but have their own spin on the core gameplay that does make it stand out amongst the crowd, for better or worse. As you begin, you’ll get to choose from Solo, Local or Online play, though I highly suggest practicing in a handful of Solo matches to get the hang of Treasure Stack’s unique gameplay. Yes, there’s a brief tutorial, but it didn’t do a great job of explaining every detail or strategy, so it will simply take a ton of practice to become proficient.

Somewhat like a mashup of Tetris and Dr. Mario, blocks of two will fall from the top of the screen, usually in the form of a colored treasure chest or key, as you control your character navigating the bottom of the screen, able to grapple and pull down the falling duo stacks and place them where you wish.

This is where the basic gameplay comes in. You’re able to use your hook to pull down the falling ‘bricks’ and place them where you want, even moving them afterwards whenever you wish. Sounds easy but it becomes anything but very quickly. Time is sped up and eventually you’ll have multiple chests and key blocks falling as you’re still scrambling to place the last set that came down. Match a similar colored chest with the corresponding colored key and the blocks will vanish. So it’s a matter of placing your chests and keys in ideal spots where you can setup combos and long chains. Again, doing so seems easy at first, but good luck once the skull blocks start to fall.

As time goes on, a meter fills on the side of the screen, and once full, a layer of skull blocks will drop across your playfield. These blocks can only be destroyed when a neighboring chest and key are combined beside them, so there’s a lot of strategy you’ll need to think of, as these demon blocks are inescapable for the most part. These junk blocks can really ruin your setup quiye quickly, so you’ll need to have a plan of how to deal with them, on top of your regular strategy of clearing chests. Like any block based title, once the screen fills to the top, it’s game over.

Luckily, there are also randomly placed item blocks that will also come down. These won’t activate automatically, like matching keys and chests, but instead, need to be picked up by your hero and activated to be used. These blocks come in the form of Bomb, Sword and Anvil. Anvil will clear the line vertically you place it on, the Sword horizontally, and lastly the Bomb will explode everything near it within a few squares. These items are very powerful and will save you on numerous occasions, but they don’t drop frequently, so use them wisely.

As you complete matches, you’ll earn gold. This gold is like your experience bar, and once full, you’ll unlock a new skin or grapple item for your character. Every item is simply cosmetic, so there’s no real reason to grind unless you want to see every character skin and item for the fun of it, or to showoff online.

Solo play is where I spent most of my time, as I seemingly had no chance against any of my online opponents each time I attempted. Should you be lucky enough to have friends come over often, the Local play is a fun time for up to four friends. Where you’ll want to test your real Treasure Stack-ing abilities though is Online. Here you’re able to play in a Head to Head, or more interestingly, a Season mode. Here you’ll play multiple matches and work towards earning unique rewards. Cross platform is enabled, so you should have no problem finding matches during the day, but when I played late at night, I was unable to find many, if any, matches at all, though your experience may vary.

Treasure Stack has a really unique idea, with your character physically being able to grapple and move stacks, but the controls simply feel awkward. If a stack is too high to jump onto, you can pick it up completely, then place it down and you’ll appear on top of it, but doing so in the thick of it with numerous skull bricks ruining the playfield becomes hectic at best. Even after a handful of hours into it, I still make a ton of simple control mistakes and have to mentally focus on what I want to do and how. I did enjoy the cute retro pixel graphics, and the soundtrack was decent, though not very memorable.

I appreciate that there’s a new take on a seemingly ancient genre, I just wish it blended together more smoothly and the controls weren’t so awkward. The difficulty curve is extremely sharp and will take hours to feel natural. While constant unlocks are something to work towards, they are simply cosmetic and there’s little left for any gameplay depth or longevity.

Overall: 6.0 / 10
Gameplay: 5.5 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10


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