Siesta Fiesta Review
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
A breakout hit
When you learn that a title on the 3DS eShop originally began as a concept for a smartphone game, there's an instinct to take a hesitant step back. On the other hand, Siesta Fiesta is proof that this route to the system can be a blessing — if iOS and Android games can be addictive and fun enough to keep millions of consumers amused, those ideas can blossom and be expanded into excellent portable experiences. Mojo Bones has also succeeded in borrowing classic gaming ideas and making them feel fresh, making this a welcome arrival on Nintendo's handheld download store.
Siesta Fiesta's concept is relatively simple. The classic paddle-and-ball block breaking is combined with scrolling levels — in the majority of cases — and therefore moves away from the standard arena-based template. Initially it can feel slightly overwhelming, as you accommodate for deflections and rebounds while also considering the shifting scene; it qualifies as a simple but very effective idea. Early levels do a good job of settling you in to the task at hand, and with six lives on each stage attempt, most will likely see the cheerful 'Congratulations' area with few problems.
At the core of this title are solid mechanics and physics, vital for any block breaking game. Level layouts often challenge you to achieve fairly tight angles and accuracy, and the paddle — or bed, as it is in the storyline — behaves much as expected. Beyond simply breaking every block, there are often tricky combinations or directions to achieve, along with some puzzle elements. Achieving the highest scores may require the activation of particular switches, changing the direction of some blocks to direct a ball of fire and more. Often a first run will see opportunities missed, and the tease of an improved score and medal can tempt you back for another try. Importantly, there's a notable feeling of weight to the ball and blocks, bringing home a sense that failure is down to the player not quite hitting the mark, rather than any inconsistency or unfairness in the physics.
Unsurprisingly for a genre focused on combos and score chasing, Siesta Fiesta adopts a medal system. Passing a level guarantees a bronze medal, and you need a pretty decent performance to achieve a silver; gold medals have been described to us as the 'developer's runs', and we can believe it. After our first run through of the full game we had mostly silver medals with a handful of bronze, with just a few golds throughout. These are exceptionally tough to get even when you know a level and have a clear plan, so will keep dedicated players busy for many hours.
Drawing on a sense of adventure familiar to anyone that's ever taken on a platformer, meanwhile, this title is split into eight worlds and a total of 64 levels, each a few minutes long. It's an impressive range of content, with colourful, varied environments; in later worlds the variation applies to a greater degree in terms of the physics and gameplay design, too, with elements such as fire and ice introduced to the core mechanics, shaking up those aforementioned puzzles. There are some clever new ideas, with some alternative paddle / bed types that switch up the controls — we won't spoil them here. The last stage in each territory also has a boss encounter — some are a simple case of landing enough hits, while others have subtle tricks and puzzle aspects to solve; they simply add to the surprising variety brought out the concept.
Thankfully, all of this excellent design is backed up by solid controls. There are multiple options all enabled by default, meaning that you can switch and combine inputs as you please. Moving the paddle can be done with the touch screen + stylus or the Circle Pad / D-pad — the former is far better, offering precision and quick movement that the standard controls can never match. You can also boost the ball on impact with either a well-timed tap or a press of the shoulder buttons / A. This effectively supports left or right handed play, and our preferred (lefty) setup was to move with the stylus and use A to boost, with a button press feeling a little more solid than a tap on the screen. Either way it's intuitive enough for anyone to play, and though less-skilled players will see some Game Over screens in later worlds, the simple nature of the concept opens it up to anyone with quick reflexes; we may not all get gold medals, but completion is a realistic goal for anyone.
These various strengths are reinforced by some of the cleanest visuals we've seen from a 3DS eShop game in some time. Whether in the sunny opening world, riding the waves, in a cave or moving along the top of a snowy mountain, this is undoubtedly pleasing on the eyes. The charming aesthetic is backed up by a cheerful soundtrack, with some Rayman Lum-style squeaky voices singing along. Considering the fact it rocks along at 60fps in all but one level — a one-off blip where some frames were dropped — means that it's terrific in action. The only downside is that due to the style of game and the level of challenge it provides, maintaining a 3D sweet-spot is pretty difficult, especially on the original 3DS model; while we enjoyed the 3D effect, we often played in 2D due to that issue.
Beyond the single-player quest over a number of hours, the only task remaining is to hunt gold medals — you're simply given three save profiles and the extensive set of levels to beat; we don't have the skill to see if every gold medal unlocks an extra treat. It's a simple setup with no bells and whistles, yet in this case it's justified; when the gameplay provided is so tight, clever, compulsive and fun, the multiple hours of content more than return on the investment. Messing around with the classic Breakout formula may not be a new idea, but the level design, power-ups and colourful approach of this title successfully make that oldest of genres contemporary again.
Siesta Fiesta is that relatively rare occurrence on the 3DS eShop — a game that delivers on all of its promises. It innovates without compromising on quality or complicating matters beyond the reach of inexperienced players, and is perfect either for extended play sessions or a quick level on the bus; with a lot of top-notch content and an affordable price, it shows that with skill and care developers can still deliver real quality to the portable. A must have on 3DS.