The Short Timer Strikes Back
Developer ACT Games has created a quirky rendition of the traditional match-3 puzzle game with its title Aggretsuko. With cackles of glee, my words after completing the first puzzle sounded something like: “What the heck is this game!?” You can’t help but laugh at the silliness. Based on the hit Netflix animated show of the same name, Aggretsuko is a match-3 puzzler at its core but with a few innovative touches that make it feel unique.
Retsuko is a ridiculously adorable red panda who works in Japan as an accountant in a typical office building, complete with annoying coworkers and disconnected bosses who don’t appreciate her hard work. To let out her frustrations at the end of a tough workday, Retsuko enjoys visiting the local karaoke joint, where she screams out anger-filled and cathartic death metal songs.
Let’s Get to Work
When the office relocates to a new building, the task falls on Retsuko to decorate it. To do this, select the floor you want to build on and then choose a theme, like Cafeteria or Accounting Office. You need a sufficient number of stars to add each element of a theme. For example, installing Director Ton’s fancy desk requires five stars; placing a table and chairs in the cafeteria takes two stars. How do you earn stars? By completing match-3 puzzles! Just my jam.
The puzzle boards in Aggretsuko are not your typical match-3 fare. They come in different shapes and sizes, with a variety of obstacles to overcome. Some boards are divided into separate areas and require crafty maneuvering of bombs and arrows to beat. Others have tiles frozen in ice or blocked by immovable stones. The objectives for each board vary as well. You might need to clear out all of the file folders, get rid of the incessantly multiplying sticky notes, or even take a few satisfying whacks at Retsuko’s boss. Don’t think you can take your time figuring the puzzles out though. Each board has a limited number of moves. If you don’t complete the objective quickly enough, you’ll fail and Retsuko will let you know that she’s displeased.
It costs one heart to start a puzzle, and you only have five of them. These take time to regenerate. Run out and you might have to do something else for a while. I didn’t often find myself with forced downtime, however. You earn extra hearts by completing daily quests or unlocking achievements, and each player on your friends list can send you one heart per day. It’s also possible to purchase hearts using real money. But for me so far, Aggretusko has truly been free to play.
A Little Help From My Friends
In addition to Retsuko, you can collect a few dozen other characters to help you complete puzzles. Fans of the Netflix show will recognize these lambs, hippos, hyenas and other animals as Retsuko’s coworkers. Each has a special ability that helps clear the puzzle boards in different ways, offering an interesting bit of gameplay not typical in other match-3 titles. For example, Washimi the secretary bird destroys blocks horizontally in a chosen row and Puko the cougar will place bombs in random locations on the game board. These skills unlock after the player has destroyed a specific number of tiles and can be leveled up to become available sooner, destroy more blocks, and so on.
This means that some strategy comes into play when you begin a puzzle. Some characters will prove more useful than others on certain boards, and some of Retsuko’s coworkers can’t be used on particular stages at all. More than once, I jumped into a match with nobody to assist me because I spammed the start button and didn’t notice that the character I’d used in the previous puzzle was locked out of the next. Make sure you have a good helper selected when starting a match. It can mean the difference between victory and frustration.
Some Extra Entertainment
Besides the goofy sense of humor, the music is without question one of the highlights of Aggretsuko. At least for a while, you will definitely want to play the game with the sound on. Upon successfully completing a puzzle, Retsuko transforms from a cute red panda into a hardcore karaoke singer, and the cheerful background melody mutates into a raging death metal tune. Particularly for players unfamiliar with the Netflix show, it’s something you’ll want to witness at least once.
If the game piques your interest enough to want to check out the TV series, episodes of Aggretsuko TV unlock as you clear stages in the game. While these aren’t the same episodes as those available on Netflix, these little snippets will give you a taste of what to expect from the show. There are currently 100 episode segments to enjoy, but each must be downloaded first and can take up several megabytes. So it’s probably best to make sure you have a Wi-Fi connection and space on your device, especially if you plan to save the episodes to view again later.
Is It Hardcore?
Aggretsuko is not your typical match-3 puzzle game. With its distinctive look and sound, it breathes a bit of life into a puzzle genre that can sometimes feel a little stale.