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This best-selling Switch game came from nowhere and we can't stop playing

“What if 2048 had a physics engine” is one of the stupidest elevator pitches ever. And yet.

Image credit: Aladdin X, Nintendo

It’s always the way, isn’t it. You’ve got an ever-expanding Steam backlog that you’ve barely made a dent in since 2014, several consoles full to the brim with untouched AAA delights, three subscription services whose delights you can never quite find the time for, and a bunch of annoying grown up stuff to do as well, like washing the dishes and making sure the wean isn’t rolling around in the cat litter. Etcetera etcetera. And yet, you can easily waste six hours per night on any dumb mobile puzzle game with a bubblegum art style and a clever hook. Maybe that’s just me. Either way, this week it’s すいか がめ. Or Suika Game, in Romaji.

You can play a scrappy lo-fi free version on browsers, or a premium version is now available on Nintendo Switch for (sorry about this, but SEO is SEO) the price of a Pumpkin Spiced Latte (christ, sorry). The Switch version is best because the art is better, the little faces on the fruits are animated, it doesn’t have ads, and the physics are dialled up so significantly that they’re a lot more useful during gameplay. Previously, getting the Switch version outside of Japan was a faff, and it didn't get an English translation until recently either.

Suika Game screenshot
The Switch version of Suika Game in all its premium glory, complete with the new Halloween theme. | Image credit: Aladdin X

But yes, physics, you heard right. This is essentially 2048, that old tile swiping puzzler where you had to match number blocks together to multiply them, but instead of numbers it’s an assortment of fruits. A salad, if you will. And instead of a tile grid, it’s a Tetris-style vertical drop affair with a rudimentary physics engine. Essentially, you’re chucking groceries into a bag. Reach the top of the screen and it’s game over. Reach the top of the fruit chain by making a watermelon, and a fanfare erupts, tickling the pleasure centres of your horrid little ape brain and compelling it to remain committed to this insidious frivolity instead of doing something useful, like inventing fire or clobbering a mammoth to death.

And that’s it, really. It’s the sort of game that’s so simple that it almost defies explanation. There’s no real way to make it sound exciting while describing it, either. Any attempt to convey the drip-fed satisfaction of it via prose ends up sounding like a court clerk listing a suburban housewife’s shoplifting offences for the benefit of a disinterested judge. A potent adrenaline rush for the one person involved, but for everyone else, a monotone dirge.

Suika Game
I can't stop | Image credit: Aladdin X

So you’ll have to just take it on trust, if you’re not already a victim of the craze, that it’s the most compelling mobile craze since the last one, and if you’re a Gamer you now have the privilege of playing it on a Proper Games Machine from Nintendo instead of slumming it on a piece of hardware chiefly designed for casual photography, cheating at pub quizzes, and receiving/issuing abuse.

Another simple idea that's gone stratospheric is Vampire Survivors, which I got obsessed with at the beginning of the year.Watch on YouTube

The Switch version is also best because you know it’s the genuine article. In the proper, official, sanctioned versions it gives you a preview of the next fruit drop, like in Tetris,, meaning you can actually use a bit of savvy and forward planning instead of just hoping that fate doesn’t shaft you. But several of the web versions that pop up when you google “Suika Game” or “Watermelon Game” don’t have this feature. And they have terrible art. And disclaimers about companies they’re not affiliated with. In fairness, they all have a perfectly serviceable version of the game which may well be “official” in some capacity (they all claim to be). But it’s not the connoisseur’s choice, it’s the crap version for aunties. The connoisseur’s choice is currently number 2 in the eShop charts, second only to actual bloody Super Mario.

Suika Game clone?
Is this an official version of Suika Game? Is there even such a thing? Why doesn't it tell me which fruit is coming next? Why is the art so bad?

Sure, this isn’t surprising. The simplest ideas are often the best ones. Fat Italian jumping on chestnuts: simple idea, billion dollar enterprise. Fruit maths: simple, number 2 on Switch. Chants of Sennaar: complex language deciphering exploration game, statistically most of you reading this haven’t even heard of it.

If not, sort it out. Yes, you should get onto Chants of Sennaar. I’m actually writing this piece to tell more people about Chants of Sennaar, but nobody would read it if it was about Chants of Sennaar, so I’ve had to spend 700 words going on about the watermelon game first. The watermelon game is fine, don’t get me wrong, but you can’t really make the argument that it’s a genuine work of art, like Chants of Sennaar is, with its bold, stark, Moebius-esque visuals and its cerebral exploration of culture clash via an intricate linguistic archaeology simulation that slowly reveals a twisty existential narrative about the unknowable nature of reality.

As if I've got time to play Chants of bloody Sennar when there's fruit to multiply. | Image credit: Focus Entertainment

The watermelon game is fine too. It’s fine. It’s good. I just don’t know why I’m playing it all the time instead of all the proper games I’m leaving to one side, like Chants of Sennaar.

Chants of Sennaar.

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