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Ultimate Super Stack
(Oren Bartal)


"The Super Stack series continues to kick Glass!"

2001 QB Gaming Gold Award Winner for Best Sound/Sound Editing and Best Puzzle Game

Just when you thought it was safe to relax again, the star trapping mayhem of Super Stack has returned! This time, you have to take your elixirs, spellbooks, and hourglasses through 55 new levels of original puzzle game action!

Test your mettle as you use your magical items and the wizard's help to trap stars! Use chain reactions and Super Stacks to add bonus stars to your game. Or, discover your new powers as you find out the secrets of the elusive Super Star!

Graphics (n.)
The use of animation and visual effects to stimulate the senses
I really didn't think that Oren Bartal could move a level up from the original Super Stack in the Graphics category, especially since last time it seemed that the DirectQB library he used to make the game was pushed to the limit to make the complicated, flickerless animations possible. Of course, I was proven wrong.

A lot of the look in Ultimate Super Stack is familiar to the original Super Stack game. The charmingly animated wizard returns in his full and utter glory, and many of the game pieces (like the elixirs and spellbooks) look just the same as they did in the original incantation of the game.

Where Ultimate Super Stack moves a level up is in the background department. The grey background from the original game was tossed and replaced with a beautifully-rendered backdrop of bricks and mural drawings. Also new to the Super Stack series is another level of animation. The screenshots above don't illustrate how Oren somehow manages to orchestrate a stream of rotating stars from the sky, all while keeping the rest of the screen very animated and alive. Sure, there isn't more than that first background design. But because this game justs seem to bounce at you, it's just impossible to give this game anything less than a perfect Graphics score!

Sound/Music (n.)
The smooth blend of atmospheric sounds and original harmonies
Good. The sound effects from the original Super Stack have not been abandoned, and like the first game Ultimate Super Stack also doesn't have any music. A few more sounds were added to help add a little more impact to the game's new features, like the shattering noise made from the new glass blocks.
Gameplay (n.)The precision of control and involvement of character within its universe vvvv
(Very Good)
The gameplay in Ultimate Super Stack is original and again stays very faithful to its predecessor. The object of the game is to "trap" a certain number of stars by nestling them between elixirs, spellbooks, and hourglasses. Depending on how you trap these stars, you can score extra points by forming "chain reactions" and "Super Stacks". Once you guide the wizard through the game's 55 levels, you can declare yourself the Ultimate Super Stack champion.

Many of the perils that make star trapping difficult from the first game have been retained, particularly the nasty ice block. But new challenges await. The triple speed rating requires an incredible amount of concentration, and the new "glass" block will apply your Super Stack skills in a new way.

But while there are new challenges, Ultimate Super Stack does come with a new ally: the Super Star. Super stars can't be broken by normal means. Instead, when Super Stars touch the top of the screen, a hand comes crashing down from the sky and crushes all the stars in its path, giving you a boatload of star points.

Unusually enough, after playing and re-playing both Super Stack and Ultimate Super Stack for a while, I decided not to give Ultimate the same perfect Gameplay score that the original Super Stack earned. This had something to do with the addition of the glass block and the super star to the game. The original Super Stack required practice and mastery of the controls to pass all the levels. But sometimes the way the glass blocks and Super Stars orient themselves give the player the added benefit of luck. I'd literally solve a level thanks to a lucky star. I'm not saying this is such a bad thing; the gameplay in Ultimate Super Stack is still very, very good and it's a force for all other puzzle games to be reckoned with. But overall, there's a little more discipline in Super Stack that made that game that much more intense.

Story (n.)
The creativity and presentation of the game's critical plot
Last time, Super Stack received an Average game rating because of it's witty use of stage titles and original game elements, despite the fact that the game itself did not have a printed story. Ultimate Super Stack repeats this feat by retaining the wizard and creating even more witty stage titles, thus earning itself the same Average game rating.
Replay Value (n.)
The timelessness of the gamer's delight, such that the experience can be repeated again and again
(Very Good)
The scores may not show it since Ultimate Super Stack received a perfect Graphics rating, but this is really where this puzzle game shines. The new features of this game, particularly the glass blocks and the Super Star, make the "Fun" mode and level clearing mode that much better than the original game.

Another thing I liked about Ultimate Super Stack is the customization feature in the "Fun" mode. You can set how hard the game is by controlling the game's speed, star frequency, and item frequency. This really allows you to control how hard the game is all the time, so it doesn't hurt your head so much when you're playing it really late at night. So now, thanks to Oren Bartal's new customization feature, you too can play this particular title all day, all night, and well into the next morning.

Challenge (v.)
To strike the mental nerve in such a way as to stimulate human thought and reflexes
(Very Good)
While the original Super Stack was all about defeating you with each level's mind-numbing layout, Ultimate Super Stack will try to beat you based on your reflexes. While the levels are made to be more fair than the original, you'll quickly notice that in the later levels the pieces descend faster than ever before. In addition, Ultimate Super Stack has much more emphasis on endurance. There are seven more levels than the original Super Stack for you to climb, for a grand total of 55 brand-new levels in the "Level Clearing" Mode!

Strangely enough, the new pieces introduced to Ultimate Super Stack are really more of an aid than a pain. The super star is like getting a second chance... I can't tell you how many times I thought I lost just before the super star reaches the top of the hill, eliminating all the stars stacked against me and forming some extra chain reactions along the way. Then, there's the glass pieces, which allow to reduce the stack faster if you concentrate your energy on eliminating the glass first before going back to star-trapping.

All in all, the new features in Ultimate Super Stack make the overall experience more controllable and a lot less frustrating. But that's a two-way street too... ultimately, I found the game to be less challenging and thus slightly less intense than the original.

Fun Factor (n.)
The overall entertainment value as maintained throughout the adventure
The original Super Stack reminds me of Dave's Insanity Sauce, a fine little blend of Asian habaneros, anaheims, jalapeños, and the dreadfully hot capsaicin extract. Dave's sauce could literally turn the strongest pepperhead into a weak and quivering fool. In the same respect, the original Super Stack was such a challenge that even after learning the skills, there was that x-factor within the game's odds that really push the challenge to the next level.

Taking this hot sauce analogy one step further, the manufacturers of Dave's Insanity Sauce soon released Dave's Insanity Sauce II, the second burning. This version of the lethal sauce was hot and more refined than the original hot sauce, but it wasn't as numbingly intense as the original. This is how Ultimate Super Stack compares to Super Stack. Both games are very, very good, and the new features and customizability of Ultimate Super Stack make it a worthy download even if you haven't downloaded the original Super Stack. In fact, gourmet QB gamers ought to have both of Oren's puzzle games somewhere in their library, just in case they feel the urge to play this charmingly addictive set of puzzle games.

Players 1 player Genre: Puzzle Game
Rating To solve: 3-5 hours Final Rating: 25/35

To download this game, click here.
Installation Tips
wIf you're unzipping this program in DOS, you may have to use the -d option.
wTo play Ultimate Super Stack, unzip the file and run "USSTACK.EXE".

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