I'm a huge fan of games about stacking blocks on top of other blocks to make said blocks explode (my love for Tetris and Columns knows no bounds).

I thought I'd played them all, so I was astonished to discover 1997 Game Boy title Kirby's Star Stacker on the Virtual Console. Not only is it a high profile block-stacker, but it's an excellent one too.


Animals drop from the top of the screen in pairs, and by matching up two or more of the same type in a row you make them go 'pop' and free up more space to fill with more animals.

However, simply popping animals won't get you anywhere. The key to progress is to sandwich stars between the animals - these stars will also pop, and every star collected pushes you onwards to towering highscores.

But here's the rub: as you purposely dump stars all over the place in an attempt to build up as big a pop as possible, you end up burying all the useful animal blocks. Success is all about balancing the dumping of stars with the spreading out of animals.

Combos are by far the most enjoyable part of the game. If you can make a match that causes animals to fall down and make more matches, Kirby will then be able to throw extra stars into the level, potentially boosting your score.

If the stars he throws make more matches, then he throws even more stars. Keep going, and he'll throw a ridiculous number of stars into the fray, lighting up both the screen and the pleasure centre of your brain.

Give him a star

Kirby's Star Stacker features your usual barrage of game modes.

There's the Tetris-style Survival mode, in which you keep going until you stack too many blocks and spill over the top.

But the Regular mode is easily the best, challenging you to grab a specific number of stars while King Dedede smashes his hammer and causes blocks to pile up from below. Every now and again a puzzle level is thrown in - find the perfect place for the supplied piece and you can watch the entire level collapse in a glorious mess.

It's a shame that the multiplayer Versus mode is missing, as we would have quite liked to go against friends. Note also that the game is very slow in places, with the blocks falling down at a ridiculously slug-like pace.

Kirby's Star Stacker would be a great game to take on a long-haul flight, letting you pass the time in a haze of gentle addiction. If you're into your Tetris-alikes, this is a must.