Tower of the Ancients is a puzzle game that might be best described as a cross between Tetris and Connect Four. The objective is to line up the blocks that fall from the sky to create horizontal, vertical, or diagonal rows of identical symbols. Get three or more identical symbols in a row, and they disappear. When the blocks stack up too high, you lose.
This isn’t the most polished game I’ve ever played; the graphics aren’t terribly sharp, and trying to improve the resolution somehow changed my system’s color settings as well. The game has also frozen up during play, and once the soundtrack continued to play after I had exited the game. All these bad points lead me to believe that this puzzle game was either rushed, or perhaps just not tested enough before publishing.
It’s too bad about the flaws, because like Tetris and Connect Four, the game has a lot of addictive qualities. The title also reminds me a bit of Mahjong. But unlike Mahjong, the constant pressure of the falling titles puts you in a more active state of mind, so it is a puzzle title with a bit of action thrown into the mix.
In spite of the occasional glitches, this is a decent game for fans of Tetris and solitaire-type card games. The playing area is a three dimensional cylinder, requiring different strategies than similar 2D games. More difficult levels of the game introduce new symbols, or stop providing a certain symbol, leaving obsolete ones in play that can only be removed with special wildcards. Without the wildcards, you are left waiting for matching symbols that will never come. The only option is to plan around these blockers, which is easier said than done.
At other times, rows of symbols have to be formed in a given orientation (diagonally only, for example) if they are to count toward the goal for that level. The online manual is a nice touch as well, clearly written and full of illustrations and examples. Without the instructions, the game would prove nearly impossible, so it is nice that it is included as part of the game, right within the program.
Finally, the price of the game puts it within the realm of impulse purchasing. It’s less than $20 in most stores, and also when buying it online. I don’t really see people rallying around this title as "the next big thing" but at that price, I could see a puzzle fan picking it up as a pleasant diversion and being very satisfied with the results.
In brief, Tower of the Ancients is a good choice for the fan of one-player puzzles who is looking for a new challenge and isn’t put off by the occasional need to reboot. It earns 3 out of 5 GiN Gems as an average puzzle title (a pure puzzle game) with a bit of a bonus caveat because the price is right.