I’m not sure that there will ever be another puzzle game that captures worldwide attention like Tetris did. That doesn’t mean developers are ever going to stop trying though. And they shouldn’t! There’s something so satisfying about mixing, matching, sorting, and obliterating blocks, and great games like last year’s Batu Ta Batu can still be made. Trenga Unlimited is one of the latest Tetris successors, and in many ways it successfully builds upon those classic, blocky foundations.
Developed by Flux Games, Trenga Unlimited is best described as playing four games of Tetris that are all interacting with one another. Each level of the game gives you a tower with four sides, and it is your primary objective to eliminate every single block that you see. Unlike Tetris, however, Trenga is a much more relaxed puzzle experience. There isn’t a steady stream of descending blocks to worry about, which means you’re free to eliminate towers at a slower pace. You can still run out of time and receive a “Game Over”, but wiping out a row of blocks (getting a “Trenga”, as the game calls it) will refill your time quite generously.
The real reason to go for speed, of course, is if you’re competing for a high score. Eliminating blocks quickly will contribute to a combo meter/score multiplier that will reset if you take too much time to act. Competing for a high score is a matter of personal preference, but it also helps with completing the three secondary objectives found on each stage. These can range from getting above a specific score to solving a puzzle without rotating pieces, but they’re entirely optional. If you don’t want to prove yourself as a Trenga master, you needn’t worry about them.
The relaxed nature of Trenga makes it much easier to approach than other puzzle games, but that doesn’t mean it takes zero brain power to destroy each tower. As mentioned earlier, blocks don’t fall from the sky. Rather, you’re presented with three blocks at the bottom of your screen. You take your pick, try to fit it within your four panels, and you are then presented with three new blocks. You can’t change your mind after picking a block either. The random generation of your choices not only makes each individual stage replayable for those seeking to get better each time, but it encourages thoughtful planning that can feel incredibly rewarding. Seeing all of your pieces slide into place according to plan delivers that puzzle-completion-satisfaction in spades.
In fact, that satisfaction comes just from the simple act of moving pieces in the game as well. For a puzzle game to succeed, it’s got to be cathartic and irritating. Cathartic when you do something well, irritating when you mess up. Chunking blocks into place with a nice “thump” never gets old, but placing a block where it doesn’t quite fit makes the block break apart in the most horrific, nails-on-chalkboard animation I’ve ever seen in a puzzler. Anytime it happened, I felt my controller squirm uncomfortably in my hands like I was being chastised for my incompetence. It’s so effective at being so unpleasant, that I would restart entire levels if I had even one block break apart.
If you can survive the depths of your failure, you’ll also unlock tiny animal companions as you journey through the game. Well, I suppose I should say JPEGS of animal companions. Aside from the way they stare unblinking into the void of your soul, these cute cliparts offer different bonuses or enhancements to help you extend your time limit, increase your score multiplier, and more. Unlocking a new one is interesting enough, if only to see what critter will come next, but, sadly, they’re the only reward for progression aside from new stages.
While we’re talking photos of aquatic buddies, the art and visuals for the game are great. Nice colors, clean UI, and in-game actions are easy to read. It’s a very cute game, but the sound design can’t follow suit. Hearing the exact same recordings of someone saying “Trenga” every single time you eliminate blocks gets old after two stages. The game’s music, while pleasant, is also insanely repetitive. Thankfully, there are options to turn off dialogue and music, which makes Trenga an even better puzzle experience since you can play it while listening to your own choice of music or a podcast.
I have been pleasantly surprised by Trenga! So many puzzle games which use blocks and feature literal copies of the famous Tetrominoes often feel cheap or unoriginal. However, Trenga has plenty to offer. There are oodles of levels, a myriad of objectives for the truly hardcore to accomplish, and a nice, primary gameplay loop that makes the game hard to put down. It may not inflict the world with Trenga fever, but fans of the genre will find plenty to love.
Score some Trengas with Trenga Unlimited on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One