It's all a question of balls. Steel ones to be precise. You see the object of the game is to pile these balls on top of each other in stacks of two or more to make them disappear. There are three different colours and lots of bonus balls too.
Placing a ball couldn't be easier. All you do is put the cursor on the ball you want to move, press fire then move the cursor to where you want the ball to be and press fire again. If the desired position is already taken up by another ball they swop places. To make things tricky, there's gravity so balls can roll downward unless properly supported.
Pick 'n' Pile is a matter of planning your moves ahead. You have to look at the random arrangement of balls on the screen and think about how best to manipulate them to get maximum points. Using bonus balls helps in points collection: some bonus balls just have numbers on them which are added to the final score, some have multiplication signs which means (you guessed it) you multiply the score by the number on the ball! For extra bonuses there are diamonds. Creating a column where the value is over 1000 points wins you a diamond and they vary in brilliance. If you collect 20 of these gems you will get a mega-bonus - wooo! There are also devils which eat away at your time, fire that can be used to support columns (!) and bombs that destroy all the balls in the surrounding area.
It gets really annoying when, just as you're about to complete one screen, you run out of matching balls! There is an option of calling extra balls if you run out but this can go on for ages before you finally find a matching pair!
The graphics used are definitely colourful and detailed but you can't go far with wrong balls! It's fun to play for a while but, in the end, there seems to be no real point to the game. Some people around the office have made a comparison to Puzznic but that was infinitely more challenging and much more interesting. With so many really good puzzle games around at the moment Pick 'n' Pile is not going to make my Christmas list this year.
NICK ... 62%
'What a load of balls (there are in this game)! Pick 'N' Pile is another 'shuffle like-coloured sprites around the screen and watch them disappear' style game, Plotting and Puzznic used the same system but they're far superior. The game starts off easy and carries on just as simply. The simplistic graphics and irritating intro tune don't help. Pick 'n' Pile is very mediocre fare.'
MARK ... 50%
There're lots of puzzle games around at the moment and they all seem to begin with 'P'. Strange, isn't it?
But even stranger is that every last one of them seems to involve moving blocks or balls around to get them to touch and disappear. Makes you wonder if there's a conspiracy afoot, doesn't it?
Actually, its fine by me. I love games that make you concentrate and do little abstract methodical things that take ages. Some call it boring, I call it absorbing - and I'm sure you've got your own perfectly good idea of whether it's really your cup of tea or not.
Each level in Pick 'n' Pile starts off with a mass og balls raining down from the top of an empty screen to pile up in one great lump in front of you. If there are any stacks made up of similar-coloured balls then they disappear right away, giving you some clue as to what you have to do. That's right, you have to swop the balls around (using a cursor) to produce more single-coloured piles - which will promptly disappear as well.
Of course, it all gets a lot more complicated very quickly. The skill comes in trying to place balls in positions where they'll prove useful in the long run, rather than just making them disappear immediately.
There are lots of added complications too. For instance, while each ball is worth a basic 50 points, you can increase the value of a pile by getting some bonus points into it. Some balls have multiplication signs on them - get one into a pile before it disappears and you greatly increase the value of the column. Alternatively, you can use special wall blocks to gain enough support to build a much higher (and so more valuable) pile.
Once you get near to finishing a screen you may find you've got some odd balls left. This is where the bonus bricks (things like diamonds, walls and fire) which you can find amongst the normal balls come in handy. Place one on any ball and they both disappear. If you haven't got any left then just press a key for some more balls to work with. Beware though - time's ticking away fast!
What else? Well, there are the little devils who occasionally appear in the midst of all the balls. Try and keep these at the top of the piles for as long as poss because once they reach the bottom time starts running out twice as fast. A good way of getting rid of one is to place a bomb (if you've got one) in the square underneath him - it'll destroy about eight of the surrounding other things.
There are other rules and regs, but, well, you'll find them out yourself if you buy the game - the main thing iS that you're up against time, which, let's face it, is a loads nicer thing to be up against than lots of men with machine guns.
So there you have it - a puzzler not unlike all the recent Ocean games really. In fact, apart from the extra colour and the balls instead of blocks it's almost identical to Puzznic. The graphics are perhaps better - colourful and clear for the most part. It's not often that things get hard to make out. Yep, Pick "if Pile is a very pretty game.
The only problem is it can get a teeny bit annoying. It does go on a bit. You have to clear about four identical screens before going onto the next one, and then it's only the graphics that are different - the gameplay is almost exactly the same. This can get especially frustrating when you have to go through all the easier bits again to get to the one that's causing you probs. Puzznic had more variation.
Still, that aside, I keep coming back for more. It's all very pretty and colourful and fairly addictive. Like I said, I guess I just like this sort of game.
Take a splash of Boulderdash, a twist of Tetris and a pinch of Puznik and you get Pick'n'Pile, Ubisoft's latest arcade effort. It's one of those addictive challenges to your reaction speed and forward thinking which is supposed to be so absorbing that you forgive the crummy graphics - well, we all know my opinion about that sort of thing - why can't it have good graphics too?
Still, you have to admit the basic idea is simple and absorbing. After the title screen which features catchy South American music, you samba to the play screen which contains - nothing! Not a banana! Lives remaining, elapsed time and score are shown at the top of the screen, but the rest of it consists of nothing but a blue background divided into columns Then, just as you begin to think that this is going to be the most minimal game ever, the screen fills with a cascade of objects which fall from the top of the screen and land in huge heaps at the bottom, then start exploding in a mystifying manner.
It's all quite simple really; your aim is to completely clear the screen of objects before the timer runs out, by moving them around so that similar objects stand on top of each other with the bottom one on the ground, at which point they explode. You do this using a gunsight-style cursor; move it over the object you want to select, press fire, move it to the destination and press fire again. The object selected swaps places with the one on the destination square, and if you've calculated right the result should be an explosion, or series of explosions if your calculations are sufficiently fore-sightful.
The objects include green, purple and blue spheres; you can't pile them up too high, because they tumble off the top of the pile, and the trick, of course, is not to leave yourself with any unpaired objects at the end. To help you with this, there are some bonus tokens which can be used to explode any sort of object. If you score enough bonus points in this way you earn a diamond, which is a GOOD THING apparently, but which just goes to stress the similarity with Boulderdash.
On later levels you get oh-so-amusing divertissements including bombs which can be used to destroy large areas of blocks, chompy monsters, and golden blocks. On harder levels, you have to pile up more objects before they win explode, and there's a two-player (alternate) mode.
The main problem with Pick n'Pile is that it's very similar to Ocean's Puznik, though with inferior graphics. That being the case, I can't see many people PICKING it, so it probably won't make PILES of money for Ubisoft,
Price: £9.99 48K/128K
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins
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