Almost three years ago to the day, Enjoy Gaming’s Pyramids had the honor of becoming the second independently-published eShop title to utilize the stereoscopic 3D feature of the Nintendo 3DS. While it didn't quite blow anyone away in that regard, with its simplistic graphics making negligible use of the effect, it still provided a good deal of satisfying retro-styled arcade action.
Pyramids 2 follows in the footsteps of its predecessor quite closely, from its Solomon’s Key-inspired gameplay right down to reusing most of its assets. Just as in the first game, your basic goal is to guide your explorer to a key and then escape through the door it opens. The explorer has a pretty basic set of moves: he can jump, shoot (but only when the level provides bullets), and create and destroy blocks either directly in front of him or below him. This latter ability is, of course, instrumental to most of the game’s challenges.
The structure of said levels will be familiar to anyone who’s played this sort of puzzle-platformer before. Though the game begins slowly, allowing you to get accustomed to its controls and mechanics, it quickly weans you off its learning stage by introducing all sorts of deadly traps and enemies that will take out your poor old explorer in one hit. Luckily, you've got an unlimited number of retries when things don’t work out so well — the process of building and executing a strategy is addictive and satisfying more often than it is frustrating. Many of the elements you’ll encounter in the game’s stages are ripped straight out of the first Pyramids, but there are a handful of additions that switch things up quite nicely, such as pushable blocks that can be used to activate switches and block enemy projectiles. There are also new levels that require the explorer to operate in total darkness save for a small light from his torch, though these aren't particularly fun considering how much they reduce your field of vision.
The procedure for unlocking all of Pyramids 2’s 54 stages will be more than a little familiar to owners of the first title. Each level has three stars to collect: one for collecting the key and reaching the door, two for collecting all of the treasures, and three for meeting both of the aforementioned requirements under a strict time limit. Just like the first game, the levels are split into six sets of nine, with each set after the first one requiring a certain number of stars to unlock. While the first four locked sets require a reasonable number of stars to open up, the last set — accurately titled “No More Games” — demands all 135 stars from the first 45 stages. This means you have to complete a perfect run of every stage up until that point, a fact that will almost certainly frustrate all but the most skilled players. Getting all three stars can be particularly trying in stages where treasures are hidden inside breakable blocks, adding an unnecessary element of trial and error that wastes precious time (and almost always guarantees the need to replay a level). That said, the amount of stages is generous enough that even without the final nine you’re guaranteed a significant amount of content.
Arguably the biggest draw for potential purchasers is the game’s level editor, which allows you to make 27 of your own little masterpieces to share via QR Code. The editor gives you access to just about everything found in the developer-created stages and has a remarkably easy interface that makes perfect use of the touch screen. Its one drawback is that players are limited to just 30 non-block elements per level, which — while admittedly requiring players to be more careful about their design choices — does limit the creative potential somewhat. Bizarrely, basic elements like the key, the door, and even the explorer himself add to the count, further limiting players’ options. That said, it’s definitely a lot of fun to tinker around and see what kind of devious challenges you can come up with, and the ease of sharing QR Codes should make this new feature a lot of fun for owners.
As with the first Pyramids game, the visual style and sound design are largely unremarkable, especially since many of the resources have been recycled from that very title. Stereoscopic 3D is also used identically, with the effect merely separating the playable foreground from the background, as is customary in many 2D platforming titles.
Pyramids 2 follows its predecessor's tried-and-true formula so closely that your enjoyment of the game may depend entirely on whether or not you've played the first title. If you have, your purchase should really hinge on your interest in the level editor: though the 54 levels in the main campaign are fun, they don’t differentiate themselves very strongly from anything you've seen before. If you haven’t played Pyramids yet, the game is a welcome bite of arcade action that can be addictive if you’re of a mind to stick with the game’s extreme challenges toward the latter half. At any rate, the value of the game is certainly a high point — considering the amount of content it has packed under its tiny hood, its low price should be an immediate draw to fans of its fun brand of pick-up-and-play puzzle-platforming.