First post updated with strategy section!
If there’s one game I know, it’s Puzzle Fighter. Since I have been a consumer of SRK’s vast pool of expertise, I thought I’d contribute something to give back to the community.
Puzzle Fighter is not a fighting game, by the way, for those who are unfamiliar. It is purely a block puzzle game.
The five kinds of pieces in Puzzle Fighter:
Gems - These are the main square-shaped pieces, and come in four colors (red, green, blue, & yellow).
Crash Gems (aka Bombs) - Circle shaped pieces that destroy gems of their own color when touching them.
Blocks (maybe there’s a better name for these) - When you destroy gems on your side, blocks fall on the opponent’s side. They start with the number 5 on them and count down by one each time you place a piece. When they reach zero, they become regular gems.
Power Gems - When gems of the same color are built to make rectangles or squares of at least 2x2, they become power gems, which are basically gems that cause more blocks to fall on the opponent when they are destroyed.
Diamonds - Diamonds will destroy all of the gems and blocks of a whichever color you put the diamond on top of. They cause less damage than crash gems, and should mostly be used in a defensive way (especially in HDR which doesn’t have the diamond glitch that causes it to do 100% damage). They come every 25 turns. If you place a diamond on the bottom of the play area without it being on top of a gem, it will give you a tech bonus, which is nothing more than just extra points.
The play area:
The play area is divided into 6 columns, and has 13 rows. This makes a total of 78 spaces.
(Note: I will refer to columns and rows by number. If I am talking about a column, the numbering is left to right. If I am talking about a row, the numbering is bottom to top.)
Column 4 is the most important one, as it is from where your pieces drop, and is also the only column, that when filled to the 13th row makes you lose. That means that if you fill columns 1, 2, 3, 5, or 6, you are still alive.
Every turn, you are given 2 pieces that are held together, but can be rotated clockwise or counterclockwise. You might get a gem and a crash gem, two gems, two crash gems, a gem and a diamond, etc etc. You are always shown what your next piece is going to be in a window near the top of the screen. Both you and your opponent get exactly the same pieces, in exactly the same order. Now, the characters, on the other hand, do have some differences, which we’ll get to in a bit.
Basically, you want to build your gems into power gems, and use crash gems to destroy them. There are a variety of strategies that can be employed, such as going for single, huge power gems, waiting for your opponent to give you ammunition via attack blocks, or chaining small explosions together. One thing is always true, though, no matter which strategy you’re employing: keep column 4 empty (or close to empty). You can have built to row 13 in every other column and still be alive, but if column 4 is full, you’re dead.
Puzzle Fighter has 11 characters (three of which are hidden, but are quite easy to use in HDR). The differences between the characters, aside from their animations and sound effects, lie in their drop patterns and damage calculations. Despite what it may seem like, the different fighting game moves that they perform in the middle of the screen are only reflective of the damage being done via the puzzle game - they are only for fun and have nothing to do with actual gameplay.
Each of the characters’ drop patterns and damage calculations can be found here: http://www.sirlin.net/articles/balancing-puzzle-fighter.html
David Sirlin was in charge of rebalancing the game for HDR and wrote up a nice piece describing his reasons. While I don’t agree with every decision he made, the game is definitely more balanced than in the previous versions. That being said, there are still tiers. And, as this is SRK, I guess this is where I tier the game.
Ken - unchanged from previous versions; the all horizontal pattern is fantastic
Chun-li - while the pattern itself is only better than Dan’s, an extra 20% to damage can be truly devastating in the right hands
Donovan - nice looking red and yellow vertical patterns in rows 1-2 are broken up by big chunks of blue and green
Devilot - Shares the best drop pattern with Akuma, but only deals 85% damage
Akuma - Great pattern, but taking an addition 20% damage, especially against Chun-li makes Devilot the better choice
Dan - All red is just a joke
Sometimes, people compare PF to Tetris Attack (aka Panel de Pon, Pokemon Puzzle League, Planet Puzzle League). While there are some similarities, it’s best to forget the strategies you learned in that game in favor of the three I’m going to teach you, which won’t feel very intuitive at first.
Here’s the breakdown that is true for each of the three main strategies employed by good PF players:
(1) Build first in column 2
(2) Make sure column 4 is clean
(3) Learn how to count to 25
(4) Keep an eye on your opponent’s screen
(5) Know your opponent’s drop pattern (at least part of it)
Strategy A - One Tower - Used by Keits and Xagrand
The “One Tower” strategy focuses on speed over everything else (whilst always keeping the 5 fundamentals in mind, of course). The goal here is to finish the opponent before they can attack. Remember when I said to learn to count to 25? That’s how many drops you have before you get your diamond. One Tower players are going to try to have the game basically won before you even get to 25. In order to compete as or against a good One Tower player, you’re going to need to drop almost once per second, getting your diamond before 30 seconds have passed.
The idea is to build one tall power gem of two columns as high as you can in columns 2 and 3. To do this, look at your opponent’s drop pattern. (In HDR, this is really easy because you can just press triangle during a match and you’ll see both drop patterns as thought bubbles coming from the respective characters in the middle of the screen). Whatever color appears in row 1 column 3 is the one you want to focus on building in column 2. This is because, whenever your opponent drops blocks on you, they’ll be building up your column 3 for you. For example, if your opponent is using Donovan, you can see that his row 1 column 3 color is red (luckily for you, so is his row 1 column 4). This means you should definitely build red in column 2.
Any time you get a piece that has a red gem, put the red in column 2, and the other color in column 1. If you get double red gem, then you can put it column 3, if it’s much shorter than 2, or you can lay it across both 2 and 3. Any time you get a red crash gem, or anything that doesn’t have a red gem, throw it in the garbage, by which I mean columns 5 and 6.
Once you have a significantly-sized tower, look over at your opponent’s screen. If they have built anything in column 4, destroy the tower with a red crash gem as quickly as you can, and you will probably win right there.
The One Tower strategy demands that you are faster than your opponent. If he or she gets a diamond and destroys all the damage you did to them, or maybe they built a tower just as quickly as you and destroyed it at the same time to nullify your damage, then you basically have to start from scratch, which can be tough when your opponent has a full screen of ammunition.
Diamonds are best used to clear away unnecessary colors that are breaking up your tower.
The best character, in my opinion, for the One Tower strategy, is Chun-li. Her extra 20% damage can finish the round when Ken cannot. Chun-li’s pattern is absolutely terrible, but since you’re going for a OHKO, this shouldn’t matter too much.
Strategy B - Two Towers - Used by !alasoul and AuhsojSivart
For a long time, I thought that the One Tower strategy was the only one anyone could ever need. Then, I met !alasoul (or Jalasoul). !alasoul was the first player, since I truly learned the game, to beat me handily, every single round I’ve played against him. Why is this? It’s simple. The One Tower strategy relies on you being significantly faster than your opponent. What happens when you’re not? The Two Towers strategy beats you. So, I have since stolen his strategy in order to face One Tower players, since I’m not really fast enough to play One Tower very well.
By the way, !alasoul is the best Puzzle Fighter player I have ever met. If you truly want to see the game at its highest level, seek him out on PSN (Jalasoul). After playing against him, I would argue that Two Towers is the best strategy, but it also is the hardest to use.
The Two Towers strategy relies on both speed and good building. It’s very similar to the One Tower strategy in columns 1-3, but instead of dismissing all pieces that don’t build up your first tower, you attempt to build a secondary tower in columns 5-6. It can be very hard to do this, especially because your new garbage column is 4, but careful placement and a little more risk can get the job done.
The reason to build two towers is not that you need to destroy both to finish off your opponent. One nice-sized tower should do the trick. Why you need two is to use one to nullify the opponent’s first tower, and another to hit them back with yours while they’re starting from scratch. Obviously, if you’re faster than the opponent, you won’t need to do that at all and One Tower should suffice.
Diamonds are primarily used defensively. For example, if you need to nullify a big attack and you don’t have the right color crash gem, you can use a diamond instead, although it won’t nullify as much of the damage.
!alasoul primarily used Chun-li against me when we played. I tend towards Ken.
Strategy C - Power Gem Chaining - Used by Vickychen110 and most everyone who’s played Tetris Attack
This strategy does not deal with single, huge power gems. Instead, it’s focused on meticulous building to create chains of smaller power gems. It’s basically placing crash gems in places where they will fall onto power gems after you destroy the gem or power gem it’s sitting on.
While I feel this could be played well, there are a couple of major problems with it. Firstly, you don’t really have a way to nullify your opponent’s big attack without sacrificing all the meticulous work you’ve done to build an awesome 4 chain or whatever. Secondly, too many players that play this way build in column 4, which will lead them to an early loss against anyone who knows what they’re doing. Thirdly, diamonds can become more of a nuisance than a help because they, like any piece that doesn’t fit into your puzzle, can screw up your plan, no matter how nicely executed it would have been otherwise.
One cool thing about a good power gem chain is that you can easily deal 99+ to your opponent if your plan works out. The entire play field only has room for 78, though, so this usually isn’t necessary.
Diamonds, again, can be more harmful than helpful. On the other hand, they can be used to survive, even if it does screw up your plan.
Ken, obviously is a good choice, although too many people who play this way pick Akuma for some reason. Maybe it’s because he’s so “cool.” Chun-li isn’t necessary because, if your plan works, you won’t need the extra damage.