Best Games - Landmaker
A few years before developing Landmaker, Taito released Puzzle Bobble, one of the best action puzzle games ever made (which I, sort of, wrote about here). The shadow of Puzzle Bobble is immense. It’s hardly any wonder that Landmaker gets overlooked when people are compiling lists of the finest puzzle games of all time. Is it as criminally overlooked as Uo Poko or Puzz Loop? Probably not, but still Landmaker deserves a place in our collective memory.
Released in 1998, Landmaker takes the color matching puzzle game and gives it a unique twist. Instead of matching blocks to clear them, you match the blocks to make increasingly mammoth structures. Firing a block with the same color at the leading point of one of these structures will dissolve it and any other matched blocks touching it. If you thought all of that sounds sort of familiar, you wouldn’t be too far wrong. On the surface Landmaker operates like a lot of other color matching puzzle games. You could try to play it like that, clearing any blocks you can as soon as you are able, but from level 2 on that would be a short road to a game over.
Landmaker doesn’t want you to clear those blocks. In fact building them up into monolithic chunks of similar color is more valuable. You see Landmaker is competitive by design. If you aren’t facing off against another player your rival is a deviously difficult AI. The playstation version of the game has a single player puzzle mode, but the less said about that the better. Landmaker is designed to be played competitively, and the only way to get an edge on your opponent is to build bigger and bigger things before smashing them down. The larger the collection of buildings you destroy on your side, the more junk will rain down on theirs.
Then there are the special blocks. Instead of granting the player a bonus as soon as you clear a larger area, Landmaker drops the specials right there on the board. You can shoot a block at them to activate them, but until you do they will sit there on your board, taking up space and being a general pain in the ass. It’s the ultimate risk reward mechanic. How many games make your success a potential liability that you have to plan for. It might sound frustrating, but actually it’s brilliant.
When all is said and done, Landmaker is a fairly simple game, but so is checkers. Similarly, the true depth of Landmaker doesn’t start to unfurl until you have played a few games of it. Pretty soon you will start to look for ways to slide blocks behind other blocks, or leave some garbage blocks right up at the edge of your failure line so that you can build larger structures somewhere else. It doesn’t just reward speed. Planning two or three blocks ahead can unleash a greater assault on the other player than simply clearing everything that comes down the board at you.
Landmaker is one of the best games with one of the best names. Don’t take my word for it. You should probably just play it, or watch this video.