Muppets Puzzle Party
The best Muppet-licensed hip-hop infused puzzle game you'll play all year. Probably.
I've written before about some mobile games that have surprised me. Most of them either took their licensed subject matter in an unexpected direction, or just generally created greatness where I didn't think greatness could be achieved. I can say with confidence, however, that no mobile game has ever surprised me more than Muppets Puzzle Party.
The first thing that struck me is that the core puzzle gameplay, as far as I know, is an entirely original design. It's very, very rare that a puzzle game is released that isn't a clone of either Tetris, Puyo Pop, or one of the other oldschool puzzle designs. There's only so many ways colorful blocks can be matched together.
Puzzle Party focuses on three boxes, centered at the top of the screen. Notes come into the field, and can be placed in the left, right, or center box with left, right and up on the D-Pad. The catch is that these notes come in a variety of shapes, colors, and note-types, and any combination of the three keeps your combo going. If you start a combo with three triangles (two red and one green), you can keep it going by replacing the green with a red note of a different shape, as you now have matching reds.
This constantly-shifting matching method creates a surprisingly deep puzzle experience, but the simplistic controls keep the experience accessible. By keeping an eye on what pieces are coming, you can plan out how to keep your combo alive in advance. Perhaps by first matching note types, then shifting to circles, and finally colors. It all happens fast and frantically, but it quickly became like second nature.
The second surprising aspect of Muppet Puzzle Party is how genuinely funny it is. The puzzle gameplay is centered around a largely hip-hop-infused dance contest (yes, seriously). You know those two old, crotchety Muppets who hate everything? Statler and Waldorf? They're the DJs, spinning "phat beats" and slinging the notes at your dancing muppet. In one stage Kermit is decked out in hip-hop hear, complete with a backwards baseball cap and a gigantic "K" gold chain. Oh yeah, and Statler and Waldorf are now know as Wally-D and StatCat.
The gameplay comes in two flavors - Challenge and Quick Play. In challenge you're tasked with completing specific objectives in a limited amount of time. Match all-reds five times, or perhaps all-triangles 12 times. The challenges get hard later on, especially when you're under the gun for time. Somewhat strangely, Quick Play isn't really quick at all. The time limit and goals are removed, and the game only ends when your performance becomes consistently bad for a stretch.
The game's biggest issue is it's bizarrely long load times. The initial load is the longest I've seen in a mobile game by a decent margin, and as you swap characters in challenge mode (thereby swapping background tunes), there's another very perceptible load, presumably as the game loads the new MIDI track.
Muppets Puzzle Party isn't revolutionary, but it absolutely shouldn't be ignored by puzzle fans simply because of the license. Kids will be able to enjoy the earlier levels and should quickly pick up on the color & shape-matching gameplay, but there is plenty of challenge to be had for adults as well, by stringing together ever-longer combos, and tackling the final challenge's difficult requirements.
What's Hot: Innovative concept. Genuinely funny Muppets humor
What's Not: Crazy-long load times