Platform: Nintendo DS
Rating: E (Everyone)
Developer: Q? Entertainment
Release Date: 06/29/2005
We all remember how nuts everyone (including myself) went when Lumines came out for the PSP. Well, DS owners won’t be shut out, as they got their own amazing puzzle, in the form of Meteos. Don’t think it’s anything even remotely like Lumines, or any puzzle game you’ve played; Meteos stands on its own as a fantastic piece of work.
Meteos likely has the strongest story out of any puzzle game. It goes like this: the evil planet Meteo is raining destruction down on other planets throughout the universe, and it’s your job to put a stop to it. You’ve got a powerful ship known as the Metamo Ark, perfectly equipped to take the fight to Meteo and turn its own weapons against it. The various biospheres on each planet factor in to the story as well as the gameplay, as well.
No 3D here, but do you really need it?
(NOTE: Ignore the Japanese text in the images. These are just the official E3 2005 screenshots, before the English translation was finalized.)
Graphically, Meteos looks amazing. Vibrant color, great character design (each planet has its own species), and very smooth work when it comes to all of the motion happening onscreen at once. You’ll never seen any slowdown, which is exceptional considering how fast and furious the game can get on higher difficulty settings.
Masahiro Sakurai was the brains behind Meteos, and it shows. The first thing that popped into my head when I heard the menu screen theme was Super Smash Brothers, which Sakurai worked on back in his days at HAL Labs. The music for the menu screens alone is a very upbeat scifi march; for the individual planets, however, the music really runs the gamut. Pick a genre of music, and it’s likely in there. There’s reggae, techno-rock, wild west country, classical…you name it. And for a non-CD-based medium, the music is astounding. Do yourself a favor and play Meteos with headphones on; it’s one hell of an audio experience. Even the sound effects fit nicely with the music, as many of them are extra musical notes that simply compliment the background tunes (the same thing was done in Rez and Lumines).
Hoo boy. Here’s where Meteos really shines, friends. I could fill up a hundred pages examing the minutiae of the gameplay, but I’ll try to sum up as best I can instead. You don’t want to be here all day.
The basic gameplay in Meteos is identical, no matter what mode you’re playing. You’ve got a central well, and colored blocks (the eponymous Meteos) come falling down in random order from the top. These are attacks against your planet, and your task to fire them right back at the instigators. There’s no clearing lines or disappearing blocks here; you want to get them off your screen, you need to launch them into space. You do this by dragging the blocks vertically until three or more of like colors coming together. This’ll create a rocket booster, launching any Meteos sitting above the matched blocks. Now, physics does come into play here; if you’ve got a ton of Meteos sitting up there, the boosters may not be able to launch them far enough. In that case, you’ll need to try to line up more Meteos below it for extra thrust. One you launch enough Meteos to jam your opponent’s screen with them (there’s a tiny representation of their screen off to the side of yours), you win.
That’s the gameplay in a nutshell. It seems simple enough, but trust me, it’s easier said that done once the action gets really frantic. Luckily, there’s a bunch of gameplay modes that’ll help you practice.
First, there’s Simple Mode, which allows you to set play options for a single game of Meteos. You can set your number of lives, number of computer opponents, time constraints, and more. This is perfect for learning the ropes of the game, and for repeated practice.
Second, we’ve got Star Trip, the main mode of the game. Here, you fly around in the Metamo Ark, traveling from planet to planet that needs help. You’ll play through seven stages, the final stage being a battle against Meteo itself. Even here, there’s different ways to play; you can go through seven prearranged stages, or you can select one of two branching options. These branches let you choose which planets you’ll visit next, and some even have more than one opponent for you to fend off! You may also have an additional mission to complete; for example, beat the opponent(s) in less than two minutes. You don’t have to complete these missions in order to beat the level, but you’ll earn some extra items if you do. After defeating Meteo, you’re treated to one of many random endings. And when I say random, I mean it; there’s even an ending that has fused Meteos turning into a giant fork to impale the evil planet. I kid you not.
Third, there’s Time War. If you’ve played a “time attack” mode in another puzzle game, then you know what to expect here. Not only do you have to beat your opponent, but you have to do it within a set period of time.
Fourth, there’s Deluge. This is the same as the “endless” modes on other puzzle games; you play as long as you can before your screen is flooded with Meteos and you lose.
Last, we’ve got multiplayer mode. Meteos supports single-card wireless play, but you won’t have nearly as many options as you would if your friends have their own copies Meteos. Head-to-head battles can naturally get out of control very quickly, especially if players gang up on each other.
Meteos features a ton of unlockable content. The game keeps track of how many different Meteos you’ve launched in all the various gameplay modes, and you can “fuse” thise Meteos into new planets, items, rare metals (to make even more powerful items), and soundtracks. Furthermore, the “stats” mode of the game keeps track of every statistic you could think of; even really obscure stuff, like how many times you’ve powered the game on. After playing for set amounts of time, more options become available. A majority of puzzle games don’t come anywhere near the amount of replay value that Meteos has.
Meteos may seem a bit confusing at first, but the game makes it easy by including a “tutor” option that’ll show you the ropes. From there, practice makes perfect. On the simpler difficulty modes, you can “beat” the game in under fifteen minutes (in the Star Trip) mode, but bear in mind that there’s multiple planets and paths to choose from, all of which can siginificantly increase the challenge to the player’s taste.
Even though there’s a well and pieces come flying down, Meteos is no Tetris. In fact, Meteos isn’t really like any other puzzle game at all; the only similarity is that it’s got blocks. The way everything is used, however, is what sets it apart. The scifi theme is a brilliant concept, and the gameplay complements the storyline like no other.
Meteos will suck you in worse that Tetris or Lumines or [insert fave puzzle game here]. It’s one of those games that works equally well in five minute installments, or in hours-long play sessions. Time will fly as you’re out saving the universe time and time again.
Well, of course puzzle fans will love it. But I think that if non-puzzle fans gave it a try, they’d be hooked as well. Besides, the very fact that it’s a standalone puzzle title (rather than an RPG sequel, etc) makes it appeal to a much broader audience. The customization options make it easy for gamers of any skill level to play and enjoy, and that’s critically important.
We should consider ourselves lucky; we almost didn’t get a stateside release of Meteos. Bandai published it in Japan, and even though their logo appears on the startup screens, Nintendo handled the US publishing, ostensibly because no one else would or could. But, we’ve got it now, and that’s all that matters, right?
Finally…if you want to try Meteos without buying it, find a friend who as it and have them send you the demo. Yep…Meteos has a demo function that can be downloaded into another DS’ memory. The demo disappears once the power’s shut off, of course, but you’ll still get a great feel for the gameplay this way.
Overall Score: 89/100
Meteos is a winner of the Angry Gamer Gold Star Award, given only to those very few games that go above and beyond all notions of quality. The award does not necessarily reflect the opinions of anyone else on Inside Pulse; this is strictly a Liquidcross thing.
FINAL SCORE: 9.0 (CLASSIC!)