Puzzle games these days mostly consist of match-three clones with candies or dragons, featuring varying degrees of difficulty. Unfortunately, many of these games don’t really satisfy hardcore puzzle gamers and it’s truly a genre that lacks high-quality entries. That’s why when we first heard about Concrete Jungle, it piqued our interest. Billed as a puzzle game with city building elements and cards, it sounded like a hybrid of sorts trying to mash together numerous genres. Thankfully, that’s not the case with the game as Concrete Jungle at its very core is a puzzle game, and a very challenging one at that.
Developed by ColePowered Games, Concrete Jungle takes place in Caribou City where you’re given the task of building out a sprawling city, but not in the way you’re imagining. Let’s make it clear that Concrete Jungle is no SimCity, meaning you won’t be planning ahead to keep those pesky and polluting industrial buildings away from your residential blocks. What the game does however is take elements from popular city builders and applies them to the cards in the game. For example, there are some buildings that will negatively impact your board state, similar to how a polluting coal power plant would make your nearby citizens unhappy in a city builder. It’s a neat spin on applying those cards in a way that makes sense, especially when it comes to a puzzle game.
The game starts off easy enough, introducing you to Laney Thompson, Caribou City’s spirited advisor. You’ll learn the basics of the game, which at first seem simple enough: play cards on a tile-based grid that eventually benefits your point-gaining buildings so you can clear each row. But don’t be fooled, the game gets quite tricky and even clearing the starting levels can be a daunting task if you don’t take the time to fully grasp how the game works. In a way, Concrete Jungle is more strategy game than puzzle game, as you will have to truly think ahead in plotting out your moves.
Welcome to Caribou City where your brain will be put to the test
At any given moment, you can see the next five cards you’re able to play. Each turn lets you choose from the first two cards in your “hand,” so planning ahead is essential to success. Each row requires a certain number of points to be gathered before it is cleared, and once it is cleared, you not only get closer to your goal but reveal more of the map ahead. Each card has two values, with the yellow number contributing towards unlocking more cards and skills while the red number adds to a system similar to upkeep. The larger that number gets, the more points you have to score before a row is cleared. But things get tricky as you get further into the campaign, as you will face off with other characters in Caribou City in a player vs. player type matchup.
By far our favorite mode was the versus mode in Concrete Jungle, where each player is given their own designated building areas as well as some grids that are free-for-all. And that’s when things get really interesting, as not only will you have to set up your moves to clear rows before your opponent does, but you’ll have to find ways to prevent your opponent from gathering points as well. The game has an interesting mechanic where the player that reaches the row’s goal first will also benefit from any points the opponent has gathered. That means if your opponent gains enough points to clear a row, you can actually stack up negative points to hurt them. Also, if the row’s goal isn’t met, it won’t be cleared until all the tiles are spoken for. Rows that do not meet their goal will award points – or subtract them – based on how many were earned by each respective player. That adds another layer of strategy, especially if you’re stuck having to finish the row in a way that’s a detriment to your overall points.
Concrete Jungle is a stellar puzzle and strategy game and is highly recommended for those looking for a challenge
Each time you beat an opponent in the campaign, you unlock the ability to use them and take advantage of their skills and unique cards. For example, Mayor Rick Selfridge has a pesky “Invert” card that allows you to flip the value of a building. That means if your opponent is gathering six points from a single home, you can invert it to become -6. It’s a nice advantage when it comes to versus mode, but it isn’t a simple “I Win!” button. Even the computer AI will find ways around your manipulative strategy and you’ll be surprised with just how difficult things can get.
If there was ever a game that followed the mantra of “minutes to learn, lifetime to master,” it’s Concrete Jungle. Each level will twist your brain in ways you didn’t think were possible, but the satisfaction you have when you succeed is a feeling very few games offer, especially in this genre. Each character introduced throughout the game has their own arsenal of unique skills and cards while constantly adjusting the way they play to defend against your tactics. Don’t worry if you feel like you’re being outsmarted by the AI, because Concrete Jungle‘s AI is brilliantly done.
There are hundreds of cards at your disposal, making no two matches alike
There is a lot of trial and error in order to succeed in Concrete Jungle. Each failure should be a learning experience as you go through the campaign. Simply put, if you’re in the mood for a difficult puzzle game that evolves into a strategy game once you start competing against other characters, Concrete Jungle is the game for you. It’s not your typical puzzle or strategy game by any means, but everything it does, it does well. The presentation is solid with each character having their own personality and cheesy one-liners and we even found the music relaxing enough to calm your frustrations. You’ll fail a lot in Concrete Jungle and that’s alright, because we feel like that’s what the game was designed to do.
Versus mode offers a challenge very few puzzle and strategy games can duplicate
Perhaps the biggest disappointment we had is the lack of online competitive play. We feel like Concrete Jungle would be a great competitive game, having you matched up against players from around the world randomly. Unfortunately, we reached out to ColePowered Games and the developer currently doesn’t have any plans on adding support for online multiplayer. We truly hope the company changes its mind as we can only imagine how much fun it would be to go up against other players. There is local multiplayer however, but we all know that’s just not the same.
Concrete Jungle is such a pleasant surprise and at $15.99, we would recommend it without any hesitation if you’re a fan of difficult puzzle or strategy games. But be prepared, Concrete Jungle isn’t something you will simply hop into and breeze through. Expect hours of learning and losing, but you’ll be satisfied the whole way through.
Concrete Jungle Review – What We Liked
- Fantastic puzzle / strategy game
- High difficulty with plenty of depth
- Minutes to learn, lifetime to master
- Great presentation
- Simple, yet brilliant
Concte Jungle – What We Would’ve Liked to See
- Online multiplayer
- Additional levels that slowly ease the ramp up in difficulty