Puzzle Strike: Bag of Chips Review

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You and your opponent stand eye to eye. You’ve fought long and hard to be here, and victory is almost in your grasp. You have to be as quick as the coursing river, have the strength of a great typhoon… All in order to make sure that your opponent’s personal game of Tetris is ruined. Yeah. This game is weird.

So Puzzle Strike: Bag of Chips is a Deck Building game published by Sirlin Games that tries to emulate this:

That was *deep breath* Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo, which apart from being an intentional mouthful is a puzzle fighting game. Yes. A puzzle fighting game. Which this game attempts to recreate.

Brace yourself: This games an odd duck.

Puzzle Strike was developed by David Sirlin, and features some adorable art from Long Vo. First released in 2010, in 2012 a Kickstarter was performed in order to bring a new version of this conceptually odd Deck Builder to life.

Now Deck Building Games are an interesting creature: It brings the stability of a “bank” of cards (similar to having a deck of 52 cards in a game of Go Fish) with the versatility and strategic organizing of a Trading Card Game such as Magic. While all Deck Building Games, or simply Deckbuilders, are different, the average flow works as such: Each player begins with the same “deck” at the beginning of the game. When it comes to their turn, they play their cards, and the end of their turn, the player then purchases new cards for their deck using in-game currency.

Puzzle Strike is not all that different from the above example: You select  your  character’s deck of three character cards,  six 1 Gems (which act as currency and weapons in Puzzle Strike), and a Crash Gem (which is how to hurt your opponent and keep your play area nice and clean). The twist? They’re not cards. They’re small cardboard discs.

They’re pogs.

Earthbound, on the other hand, I totally get.

Pogs: Something I will never understand about the 90s

Alright, that’s hardly fair. They’re not Pogs. The Bag of Chips subtitle exists because the deck building aspects eschews cards and instead uses the titular chips. They’re cardboard, yes, but they’re incredibly sturdy well-made pieces of rounded cardboard. They have a great weight, and they make shuffling a blast. No, that’s not a joke: Shuffling is great fun in this game! In order to shuffle your deck, you put all your chips in a nice velvet-ish bag (which come included) and give it a nice, good shake. You might feel like an easily amused 6 year old, but it’s just oodles of fun. Yes. Oodles

Each turn you get a 1 Gem thrown into your play area by the bank, simulating a gem falling from the top of the screen: This goes to your Play Area. You have to combine it with other chips in the Play Area and crash it, sending it to your opponent! Or, maybe you play a Move Chip, giving you extra moves and bonuses or sending nasty Wounds to your opponent! After that excitement, you get to use the Gems in your possession to purchase new chips, and the game continues until someone ends up with more than 10 Gems in their Play Area. This game gets frantic, with chips flying all over the place and people pulling off impressive combos and just… This game is a fun, panicked romp.

Fun, but unbalanced.

Each game in the series (Puzzle Fighter and the 2012 expansion Shadows) is terribly, terribly, TERRIBLY unbalanced. Some characters are just designed to win more! And I don’t know if I even hate that, because it’s based on a fighting video game (well, puzzle fighting game but whatever…), the most notoriously lop-sided genre on the planet. It’s a rare time where the ideology that mechanics and themeatics should work in tandem is genuinely questioned, and as a gamer I find it hard to know if I love that or not.

Regardless, I will never poo-poo a game that just tries something different and funky. And this game is, indeed, different and funky. And when you get the game running, it has moments of brilliance that I have to cheer! Along with the cute but stylish art and well-made pieces and playmats and borders, it’s exceptionally easy to encourage others to give this one a shot! Just be prepared for some harsh words when certain characters are picked.

Buy Puzzle Strike: Bag of Chips
Price: $9.99 for Print and Play – $59.99 for a Physical Copy
Players: 2-4
Recommended: 2
Skip-A-Turn Variation: HADOKEN!: The winner gets to act out a “Final Move” as seen in Street Fighter or Tekken. No matter how silly, the loser has to play along.

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8 thoughts on “Puzzle Strike: Bag of Chips Review

  1. The play off Street Fighter is awesome! I’m pretty sure you have to review Pogs now after bringing them up, and I really really want you to! HADOKEN, that’s genius! Fatality! I may never play this game, but I’ve definitely enjoyed the review. And I am much more likely to play it now, if I ever come across the change to, now that I’ve read this.

    PS. Remember The Garbage Pail Kids?

    • Oh god yes! Horrific things!! Don’t get me wrong, gross out and dark humour can be done well, but those things were just vile. I’m pretty bitter towards them after seeing their movie as a kid (even as a kid I knew it was awful!)

    • Garbage Pail Kids were just a hair before my time, but while I’ve been working on my The Big Three trilogy I was surprised to see that you can apparently still buy those! Apparently no matter what happens, little boys and girls will love gross illustrations. Though they’re based on Cabbage Patch Kids, right? Do those still exist?

      Any way, yes, the game proper: It’s AWESOME. There’s an online version if you want to give it a shot without putting down some cash.

  2. Seems like an amazing game! The imbalance is annoying but a few “patches” (house rules) could fix that. Imbalance is not something I’d have thought anyone would want to follow as a theme (bar tabletop campaigns and working co-op to beat odds), but despite that, colour me curious.

  3. I’m not sure what you mean by imbalanced. It’s actually extremely well balanced. Like years of testing, many tournaments, and holds up for thousands of plays from hardcore experts. There’s also a 100+ page strategy guide written by those experts here: http://www.sirlingames.com/products/puzzle-strike-extras-pack

    An article on the balance for experts here: http://www.sirlin.net/blog/2012/4/23/puzzle-strike-and-the-quest-for-a-tournament-quality-deckbui.html
    I’m not aware of any deckbuilder more suited for tournaments than this game. It’s played extensively online and in tournaments at http://www.fantasystrike.com.

    • I’ve actually used Sirlin’s browser-based version of this game, and it is fun. I find a few characters, doubly so in Shadows, tend to win more often than others: Grave Stormbone’s ability to block 4 gems, Captain’s Zane extra moves, and a few others come to mind. This doesn’t make it a bad game. Hell, it’s still my favorite deck-builder on the market (and if you could point me towards one of those tourneys that’d be awesome) but I felt like if I was going to try to sell this game to some one who didn’t know this game at all, I’d have to warn them about that.

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