Much sunken treasure has been salvaged by Venice Deluxe, from arcade relics such as Breakout, to Tetris, pinball and even penny drop machines. Retro64's latest feels smart, unique yet never particularly new.
From your golden gondola, you fire treasures into sinking palaces. Rather than stick to the first thing they encounter, as in Puzzle Bobble, they ricochet around until they hit either their matching socket or the rising sea. Obstacles abound, from angled bumpers and sliding platforms to the treasures you've already fired into place.
It would, however, be child's play were it not for 'tumbling', by which treasures cascade downwards to fill similarly shaped holes. Score and time limit increasingly demand that you aim high, securing these combos and minimising the time it takes to clear each floor. Arranged into stone platforms that spin and lurch with impact, only disappearing when filled, holes are often so obscured that only a mind-bending trick shot can reach them.
Appropriately for a game which takes something from everything, Venice seeks to give something to everyone. Its two primary modes, Journey and Flood, cater to entirely different block puzzle crowds. Journey is for the pipe-smoking Hexic player who thinks a dozen moves ahead, imposing no time limit but taking a life for each treasure that hits the waves.
Flood is for those who prefer shooting from the hip: buildings sink rapidly as you send volleys of treasure up the screen. Complete those and you unlock Trick Shots and Survival, which push the two disciplines to extremes.
Perhaps such breadth explains why Venice is ultimately too shallow to rank alongside Peggle, or any of its towering inspirations. When it's slow, you find yourself searching for strategies where none are needed; when it's fast, the action's too erratic to let subtler disciplines emerge. Making off with all those arcade gems just seems to have weighed Venice down.
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