History has taught marketing people to be very selective when trying to combine two brilliant things to make something new. The theory is that two pieces of goodness will make a piece of pure excellence.
Alas that's not always the case. Consider Sky One's The Big Idea, a reality show that blends X-Factor and The Apprentice. Or crazy combos like Peanut Butter Kit-Kat Chunky, Lemon-flavoured Coke, and Cherry 7-Up. Yes, that last one really did exist.
We're not telling you whether any of those examples are good or bad, mind. We review games – we know our limits!
The point is, there's such a thing as a combination too far. With this in mind, Infospace's attempt to blend Tetris and Lemmings – two of the most influential puzzlers ever – could be deemed as a bit of a gamble. But y'know what? We think it's really worked.
Aqua Stax is the name given to this surprising union. The objective is to rescue stricken adventurers known as Gumblers from an ever-rising water level (which slowly makes its way up the screen and drowns them), by building an escape route of blocks to the exit at the top of the screen.
These blocks fall down the screen, just like in Tetris. But instead of trying to lay them out horizontally across the screen to create lines, you have to place them on top of each other to form a vertical stack, so the little guys can climb up to safety.
Spread over 50-odd levels, the game gets progressively harder with the introduction of obstacles such as (thankfully stationary) seagulls, which you must stack around or they'll eat your Gumblers. Meanwhile, the number of Gumblers to rescue also increases as you reach later levels. The introduction of raised sections, platforms, and even small cliff faces that possess expectant Gumblers in need of a helping hand soon means you must stack in an almost zigzag fashion up the screen.
Of course, you also need to make sure you don't get too carried away and stack past the exit or build to the top of the screen, or else you'll stack out.
Thankfully, the control method is assured, and to further help you there's also a targeting system that displays a red outline of the current falling block that denotes where it will land, helping you line it up.
The game also offers temptations to sway from you upwards course, such as bonus boxes that once you get to them will reveal extra bonus points, or a 'same block' bonus that keep repeating the type of block you were in possession of when you gained the bonus. This then remains activated until you hit another bonus.
This latter bonus is great if you have one of the friendlier multi-purpose blocks, such as that champion of all block games – the L-shape brick. With one of these you can have the Gumblers stacked up to the exit in no time. If it's an awkward angled one, however, then you'll soon get a crash course in the 'round peg, square hole' principle.
The strategy element of Aqua Stax is pleasingly well-developed. For instance, as you're trying to get your stack moving, at times you'll have to balance up whether an odd-shaped block that you'd prefer to avoid placing in your stack can be dumped into the advancing waters, bearing mind that in doing so the water level will lurch annoyingly upwards. Damn Archimedes and his Laws of Buoyancy!
In summary, Aqua Stax is a novel combination that works superbly for the mobile platform. With solid visuals, the game feels very well thought out and produced. Who knows, it could be the start of a bit of a phenomenon. We'd certainly prefer another bite of Aqua Stax to a Peanut Butter Kit-Kat Chunky…