(3DS eShop)

Pyramids (3DS eShop)

Game Review

Pyramids Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

An ancient relic

It may be early days for download content exclusive to the 3DS, but we can confidently say that it's been a slow start. In fact, if you disregard 3D Classics and a free Pokédex 3D produced by Nintendo, Pyramids is only the second game to utilise the capabilities of the 3D screen. This adds a certain level of expectation to this title, and its success in dealing with this is distinctly mixed.

At its heart Pyramids is a retro title, at odds with its status as one of the pioneers of third-party downloadable 3D content. Each level takes place on a single screen with the objective of opening a locked door and collecting treasure, with an optional time limit to conquer. The gameplay is strictly 2D, while you can jump with the B button and, on the rare occasions that ammo is available, use Y to fire a bullet at an enemy. The main mechanic for solving each level is the ability to create and destroy blocks with a tap of A. These are used to resist projectiles, forge paths to platforms and other areas and in some cases lure enemies to their doom. The controls for these basic functions are competent, with just a few minutes necessary for gaining familiarity with all of your character’s capabilities.

This title has an uncanny resemblance to Solomon’s Key, in fact, but that shouldn’t be considered as a negative. The move-set and single screen gameplay may be simple on the surface, but like a lot of old NES-style games the degree of difficulty defines the experience. Early levels only require a simple progression to the goal, but within a short period you’re required to dodge falling rocks, spitting snakes and deadly bats. Bullets, as mentioned above, are exceptionally rare, so on most occasions enemies must be avoided, blocked or strategically led to a fall from a destroyed block. It’s tactical and tricky, with later levels truly challenging your puzzle-solving skills and reflexes in equal measure.

Despite all of these retro influences, some trends of modern gaming are still present in Pyramids. The level structure is a prime example: a total of 54 stages are divided into six areas, each with a different theme. Unlocking the next area isn’t a matter of simply clearing each level, but of attaining a minimum required number of stars. Each stage has three stars available: one star for simply reaching the goal, two stars for reaching the goal and collecting all treasure items, and three stars for achieving both of these tasks within a stringent time limit. While the first five areas are unlocked without too many perfect runs, the sixth can only be accessed if three stars have been obtained in all preceeding 45 levels. This system of targets for unlocking new areas is prominent in smartphone games, also present in the DSiWare edition of Cut the Rope, and generally works well in setting goals while encouraging improvement. Due to the difficulty in later stages, however, the idea of achieving every star in the first five areas is almost inconceivable: a great deal of patience, commitment and gaming skill is necessary in the pursuit of those final nine levels.

There is an extra set of nine stages available to unlock, though these are actually empty slots to be filled as a form of DLC in the coming weeks and months: developer Visual Impact has included a QR code area for this, rather than a download system. Additional levels will be released as QR images, one of which was provided exclusively to Nintendo Life, and within seconds of aligning the code with the 3DS cameras the extra content is available to play. While this title lacks any form of multiplayer or online functionality, this is a clever way of providing extra content through other means while utilising the system’s capabilities.

Putting all of this together, the core content as well as additional QR codes, there is plenty here to keep the majority of gamers busy for a long time. The simplicity of gameplay makes it a compulsive experience, with unlimited continues and sub-minute stages contributing to this, but the difficulty may be a turn-off after one too many "Level Failed" screens.

Visually, this title is reasonably pleasing on the eye. Animations are simplistic, however, and whether this is representative of nostalgic whimsy or overly simplistic graphic design is down to individual taste. The 3D effect is well executed, with each of the six areas having a different background noticeably moving off into the distance. The actual perspective is strange, with the levels being 2D structures placed in front of a 3D room or landscape, a death sending your tiny intrepid explorer towards the screen or into the background. Conceptually it doesn’t make sense and the depth has absolutely no impact on the actual gameplay but it is, nevertheless, a pleasing visual distraction. Sound is basic and competent, with music that is inoffensive but entirely forgettable.


Pyramids is one of the first 3D downloadable titles, yet owes its style of play and level design to the NES age of gaming. The 3D is almost inconsequential, but the result is a tough, well-constructed puzzle title with plenty of content. Despite these positives and the undoubted effort applied to the development, the punishing difficulty will exasperate and drive less experienced gamers away: the almost impossible target to unlock the final set of levels may also finish off expert players. Nevertheless, at a reasonable price point this title is worth consideration for fans of the genre, or gamers seeking an old-fashioned challenge to test their skills.

From the web

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User Comments (38)



Oregano said:

This is a very fair review and I'd say it aligns well with my perspective on the game.

It is surprisingly addictive though. You feel you need to go back and beat the level!



Dyl_73 said:

It's good so far. I'm not that far into it but I can can tell it's going to take a looooooong time to finish.
7 out of 10 seems a fair score to me.



daznsaz said:

i read somewhere the controls werent perfect.im guessing they were just whinging will be getting this tomorrow



ThomasBW84 said:

@daznsaz - I found that the controls were fine. I had about 2-3 minutes where the 'block' controls threw me, but it was then simple and intuitive. They're competent, and it really feels like playing a solid NES puzzle game, albeit with reasonably nice, 3D visuals.



alLabouTandroiD said:

Great review, Thomas !
I might download it one day but having to nail the stages to see every level turns me off too much right now.



Chris720 said:

@9 Actually you only have to get a set amount of stars to unlock the next lot of levels, it's just the 6th Chapter where you need to finish off the previous 5 Chapters (135) to unlock it.



Blaze said:

100% agree. I find it really hard to get the star for timing, it's literally impossible on all but the first level. Great Review!



Zach said:

If you're getting stuck or finding particular spots too difficult, Enjoy Gaming has offered to help out with tips and screen shots on the company's Facebook page.



skeuri said:

Enjoying this one a lot. Pretty addictive and pulls me back to get that second star (for coins collected) on previously finished levels (third stars for timelimit seem impossible right now). Being able to add levels through QR Codes is a wonderful addition which I hope will get a lot of use.

7/10 is a fair score although my peronal bias would add a point to that.



daznsaz said:

@thomas i was gonna say it looks like the type of game that needs top controls.looking forward to getting it



Objection said:

I probably would have tried it out if it wasn't for the "unlock stars to unlock the other stages" BS. That's just a ridiculous way to stretch the game's length.



Chris720 said:

@11 Oh, I see. I thought you meant that you'd have to complete each chapter/world before you can move on to the next one, when you only need a certain amount of stars before you can move on. Nevermind.

The 135 stars to unlock the 6th chapter/world is a bit ridiculous, but the 4th and 5th worlds are pretty dang hard as it is. So I think it was intended for you to sharpen your skills before they get truly tested.



Sneaker13 said:

Wasn't impressed with the first screens and the 3D trailer and I'm still not impressed. So a skip for me.



C-Olimar said:

@Bazly I presumed it would have a level editor with the QR codes. Hopefully a possible sequel may include one.



stipey said:

The control issue that's been mentioned is, I think, a very slight lag in response. It's so slight that it hasn't been enough to kill me on its own, but it is vaguely noticeable.

I think what's missing from the videos and screenshots is the sense of tension in trying to get the levels done. I really thought the game failed to sell itself from the vids, but I picked it up because I was so desperate to have SOME 3DSWare. And I'm pleased I did! It's easy to keep going back to for "one level" and stay for a lot longer.

Having said that, the thing does seem like a reskinned version of Solomon's Key, going even further than just being a "tribute". I'm not sure how I feel about supporting that, really.



tovare said:

I think it's different enough from Solomon's Key ... let's call it spiritually destilled



Ren said:

Now that I got a smartphone ages after everyone on earth I'm seeing why it's time for nintendo to start taking this seriously. This sounds good but if 3d is what helps these stand out then there better be more of these that use it well, like, yesterday. AsAp. This is only the first, I know, but the clock is ticking when a nintendo junkie, like myself, is trying to choose between little apps and poor retro releases in so- so 3d. Why should I Carry 2 bricks around when I can get fun, creative stuff for 1$ on my phone/ calendar/ wifi?



WolfRamHeart said:

Nice review Thomas. I wasn't sure about this game but I am a fan of Solomon's Key so I am willing to give it a try. The price is good and I like the idea of unlocking more content via the QR code feature.



tovare said:

@Ran that's an interessting debate, but IMHO if you prefer casual games where a touch screen or cell-phone keys would work, Pyramids is likely not a game you would enjoy. But there's nothing wrong with games on phones, I play games on lot's of platforms and don't see any reason for loyalty to one ... I even found my self re-playing Photopia (If adventure using KIF) on my kindle ... even tough the keyboard isn't all that for text adventures. My smartphone (N8) is the least used of my devices for games, the reason is that I got bored with angry birds and the controls in other games is crap (Like NFS Shift, Tron, Tetris, The Sims 3, Hawx, Galaxy on fire). You'll see once you get over the graphics But I do hope to see more excellent eShop releases for the 3DS, the selection is too small right now, but I really enjoyed both Golf and Pyramids.



Tate24 said:

Id probably buy it because its cheap and because its second 3DSWARE title on eshop.



daznsaz said:

got it this morning not got to far yet but enjoying it worth the price.plus you can get extra levels=win win



Ren said:

True, the controls are much better. I'm only mentioning it here because I do much prefer my 3ds, but when I'm heading to work (bus>Train) now they literally compete for my pocket space. I can't get rid of my phone, and it has so many other conveneint and simple additions (a useful planner/calendar, why not have that built into the 3DS menu, since much of the retro crowd they design for is 25-30 y.o.?).
Pyramids looks ok, but this, the recent free content for launch buyers, and some pricey DSiware are all it has to offer now, so it's really not worth me bringing a bag since it's all I have to carry. It's literally in the family of competing devices and I still take it, but once I have some good iphone games, I'll just start leaving my 3DS at home instead of killing the battery walking around with it in a bag (not to mention the top scratched screens by the lower screen when it's closed in my pocket, separate but real issue)



warioswoods said:

Permit me a momentary shout: DO SOMETHING WITH THE LOWER SCREEN

On principle I'm not sure I can buy this game. If you leave nothing but a giant, ugly menu button on the screen that makes up a significant portion of the system's displays, you're clearly not trying. Stop being lazy developers and find something more inventive to display there, or it's hard to take you seriously.



Steviis_Father said:

I was thinking the exact same thing! Solomon's Key! Hahaha!

But I loved that game, (Both Key for the NES & Quest for the Gameboy), so this game should be good.



kingofe3 said:

I hate this game, too unfair about many things, such as blocking the enemy attacks and brutal time limit. I also hate the fact that you have to earn a certain amount of stars to reach the next level. Pretty much requires you to obtain most of the stars from all of the stages, a real pain. Not only that the controls are faultly and I feel like the character have no real identity. I have only started level 3 and I have been having the game since it's release. The only good thing I can say about this game is the amazing 3D depth, one of best, but still not worth it unless you LOVE puzzle games. I'm not sure I'll ever play this game again.



3dbrains said:

Demo for this game comes out on thursday in the UK so I am looking forward to giving this a try.



ejamer said:

Wow. Faulty controls? Impossible difficulty? I must be playing a different game because I found Pyramids to be a challenging but totally possible (and very enjoyable) retro throwback. The puzzles occasionally require that you stop and use your noggin, and other times force you to just make a run for it from the start. Controls are responsive and were easy to get the hang of.

The review score seems fair and I understand that not everyone will love this type of game... but it feels like people who aren't good at the game are making excuses for their performance instead of giving accurate information.

Oh, and there is a (homebrew) level editor available for PCs that allows you to create and share your own QR codes. Pretty cool!

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