Pretty Girls 2048 Strike: a fun twist on a solid puzzle format

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It’d be easy to dismiss Zoo Corporation’s Pretty Girls series (and eastasiasoft’s companion series Otoko Cross) as hentai-lite shovelware, attempting to draw people in with sexy anime-style artwork, then providing little more than something you would have played during a free five minutes in Windows 3.1 thirty years ago. But one of the great things about this series — and something our ongoing coverage of it seeks to highlight — is that it’s never satisfied with simply being Windows Solitaire with sexy art. It always goes just that little bit further. And Pretty Girls 2048 Strike is a great example of this.

Pretty Girls 2048 Strike, as the name suggests, is an entry in the series based primarily around the popular “2048” format of casual game. The basic 2048 format sees players moving blocks around on a square grid, attempting to make matching numbers collide into each other; this causes them to add their values together and become a higher number. The eventual aim of the original 2048 game is to create a block with the value of 2048 by matching 2s, then 4s, then 8s, then 16s… and so on.

Pretty Girls 2048 Strike

The original version of 2048 drew considerable ire on its original 2014 release for being perceived as a clone of mobile puzzler Threes, in which players matched tiles in multiples of 3 instead of 2. Indeed, one of the games cited as inspiration for 2048’s original release — imaginatively named 1024 — actually marketed itself using the phrase “no need to pay for Threes”.

We’re drifting off the point slightly here, I know, but this is a bit of an injustice, given that 2048 is, today, far more well-known than Threes ever was. Those of us who were there back in the day still recognise Threes as the OG, though. But I digress.

Anyway, in Pretty Girls 2048 Strike, a bit of a twist is put on the usual 2048 mechanics in that your aim is not to make a block totalling 2048, but rather to whittle down the hit points of blocks depicting the various Pretty Girls. Smack a numbered block into a Pretty Girl block and it will lose that many hit points; reduce a Pretty Girl blocks’ HP to zero and it will be eliminated from the board. Eliminate all the Pretty Girl blocks from the board and you win that stage.

Pretty Girls 2048 Strike

This small change to the core concept of the game gives Pretty Girls 2048 Strike a markedly different dynamic to 2048, Threes and their myriad clones. Now you have to find a good balance between matching blocks to increase their value and dealing damage to the Pretty Girl blocks — and you can bet those Pretty Girl blocks will be right in the way at the most inconvenient times.

The further you progress through Pretty Girls 2048 Strike, the more additional wrinkles are added to the mix, too. Your “opponent” in each stage will gain the ability to use a Skill, which generally has some sort of adverse effect on your efforts — though at the same time, you also have the option to use a Skill according to which one of several different available characters you pick when starting to play.

On top of that, later stages will introduce fixed, immobile blocks that do not move around as you slide the rest of the blocks around the board, meaning you’ll have to bear them in mind while attempting to create your matches and deal damage.

Pretty Girls 2048 Strike

And, of course, there’s the ever-growing pressure inherent in the fact that every move you make in Pretty Girls 2048 Strike causes a new block to appear on the board, meaning that if you’re not actively making matches as often as possible, you’ll quickly find yourself overwhelmed.

This is a really good puzzle game. The tweaks to the basic 2048/Threes formula make it stand out and feel like more than a simple copycat clone game, and the variety of stage designs and well-paced difficulty curve mean that the game caters well to a variety of players, regardless of their experience level with games like this.

The complete package is arguably a little scant on replay value and unlockable content — getting roughly halfway through the main single-player game is enough to unlock pretty much all of the available girls and costumes for use in the poseable “Diorama” feature — but there is, at least, an Endless mode available to challenge once you’ve beaten the fixed levels. Plus, as with all the previous Pretty Girls titles, there’s the fact that the game is super-cheap, so it’s hard to be too mad about this. It just might have been nice to have more than two costumes per playable character, and perhaps some alternative outfits for the “opponent” characters also.

Pretty Girls 2048 Strike

This minor issue aside, I feel pretty confident in saying that Pretty Girls 2048 Strike is one of the strongest entries in the Pretty Girls series to date. 2048/Threes is a solid base for a puzzle game, and Pretty Girls 2048 Strike goes the extra mile in implementing some additional mechanics atop that base to create something that has its own distinctive feel. Like the other Pretty Girls games, the production values are solid and the game plays well — so it’s a great addition to your lineup of casual games.

We look forward to seeing a version with naked breasts included in the inevitable physical release of Pretty Girls Game Collection 4 at some point in the near future!

Pretty Girls 2048 Strike is available now for Nintendo Switch and PS4.

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Pete Davison
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