Treasure Stack review – a tale of two ideologies

As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate puzzle games a lot more. Some of that has to do with a firmer understanding and enjoyment of the systems that games are built around. But it’s mostly hinged on the fact that my wife loves them, and finding something with a competitive element is an easy and enjoyable way to spend time together. Even if she pretty much whips me every time.

When I saw the first trailer for Treasure Stack, I didn’t understand a lot of what was going on, but seeing four different boards going at the same time clearly implied that multiplayer was a focus. Which in turn meant that here was something new that I could delude myself into thinking I might be better at than my significant other. For once, this actually happened… but not for the reasons you’d think.

My first impression of Treasure Stack is that it plays very much like Nintendo’s slightly obscure puzzler Wario’s Woods, which it’s safe to assume was an inspiration. At its core, you have to match the ubiquitous treasure chests with their similarly colored keys in order to clear them off the board. As the game progresses, garbage blocks pop up to give you trouble, along with a set of weapons that’ll help you to stay in the game. Rather than moving a cursor around, you have a little avatar who can jump or toss a grappling hook to drag blocks down. If that sounds a smidgen too complicated, you’d be right.

This is how I got better at Treasure Stack than my wife – it was too complicated for her, to the point where she wound up frustrated and gave up in favor of something else. She’s not a sore loser by any means, but I think there was one too many layers of abstraction for her to handle, and it dulled the experience as a whole.

For me, I enjoyed learning the nuances of the game play, and cherished that feeling of accomplishment every time I did marginally better than my last play. But I’ve been trained over decades to enjoy experiencing games that way. My wife wants the instant gratification of knowing the rules from the get-go and instead enjoying the competitive nature of the game. It’s a fundamental difference in thought process that I think is the crux of whether or not you’ll enjoy Treasure Stack yourself.

Beyond unfurling the subtlety of its mechanics, Treasure Stack does offer a lot of incentive to keep playing. There’s a plethora of unlockable avatars and grappling hooks to push you along, giving you a lot of customization options that really help to separate you from those you play against. You can play locally or online, with the latter giving you a lot of choices and rankings to tackle, including not only Switch players but those on other platforms thanks to cross play. There’s also a season mode, a popular inclusion these days, to encourage you to keep coming back. This feels a little more non-committal than your usual ‘games as a service’ fare, which in turn makes me want to pop back in every now and again.

I’m at a bit of a crossroads as to whether I’d give Treasure Stack a full recommendation. On one hand, I love discovering new strategies and at the very least unlocking new things for my effort even if I lose on the road to mastery. But on the other hand, for someone looking for an accessible puzzle game that’s easy to understand from the start, I don’t think it holds up. You have to put in the work – but in doing so, you’ll find that Treasure Stack is a brilliant puzzler.

Treasure Stack was developed by PIXELAKES and is available on PC, Xbox One and Switch.

Disclosure statement: Review code for Treasure Stack was provided by Evolve PR. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.