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by Majesco

fortress41-01.jpg (5947 bytes)Many puzzle games come along that look like other puzzle games. Sometimes the cosmetic change is pointless beyond not infringing on an already held franchise. In fact, most of the time, that’s the reason. However, sometimes a game comes along that significantly alters a pre-existing format. That is the case with Majesco’s latest puzzle game, Fortress. It does more than just rhyme with Tetris – it is a strange blend of Tetris and Scorched Earth.

fortress15-01.jpg (6025 bytes)Maybe you don’t know what Tetris is. I’m kidding, but maybe you really don’t know what Scorched Earth is. Scorched Earth is the grandfather of games like Worms, and involves lobbing mortar fire from one base to another. It is an old game, ported to many systems and found in many varieties, but usually played on a two dimensional background with immobile bases. Fortress combines the idea of lobbing bad things at an enemy base with the building involved in Tetris, and in doing so creates an addictive, unique experience.

fortress09-01.jpg (6457 bytes)In Fortress you choose a time period (Prehistoric, Medieval, Pirate, or Space) and game mode. You can either play one level at a time in the Battle mode or go through the whole gamut in the Tournament mode. You may also play against a friend in either mode. The games are point-oriented, and you score points, or lose points, by building on your fortress, damaging your opponent’s fortress, or taking damage to your fortress.

fortress26-01.jpg (6544 bytes)Each game begins with a period of expansion and building. You place your barracks and pieces of your fortress, trying to expand across the screen toward your opponent. You also try to drop pieces into alignment so they will merge, becoming stronger, and sometimes even special, portions of your stronghold. In addition to the standard Tetris-shaped blocks, you must place weapons and defensive or regenerative elements. After the alotted building time, the battle sequence starts.

fortress32-01.jpg (6991 bytes)Throughout battle you continue to build onto your fortress. You must keep up your defenses and place new offenses throughout the game. You can create special elements, such as a wizard’s tower, by building different structures with your blocks. In addition to all the chaos you are (at least somewhat) in control of, there are environmental factors to contend with. In all, there is a lot of activity on the screen, and it takes awhile to get the hang of the game. Once you do catch on, however, it is a lot of fun.

fortress11-01.jpg (7123 bytes)The biggest drawbacks in Fortress are not flaws with the gameplay itself. Overall, this is a very solid game that can keep you sucked in for hours. However, once you begin mastering Fortress, you can’t help but want more. There are only four levels to play on, which is nice at first. Each level has a different aesthetic and is quite clever. It would be great to have more graphical themes. The gameplay also seems limited by the score system. There should be other goals that could determine the outcome. There aren’t enough different weapons. You can basically place the cannon, build a wizard’s tower, or place an immediate, one-time, offensive block that will shoot one of your workers over to wreak havoc on your opponent.

fortress44-01.jpg (8905 bytes)The bottom line on Fortress is this: If you are a fan of puzzle games, this is a must-play. The intense action and great replayability will grab you instantly, and this is undoubtedly a title that will help propel the evolution of puzzle gaming. However, I for one hold out that the sequel will be even better and that this game doesn’t quite live up to its full potential. Fortress is worth the price, but not as timeless as the other puzzlers we’ve come to know and love and see in our dreams.

Shawn Rider   (09/29/2001)


Ups: Great puzzle game; unique premise; nice multiplayer; excellent graphic themes; lots of fun.

Downs: Only a few different environments; not enough different weapons; needs better variety of game goals.

Game Boy Advance