Preview: Puyo Pop Fever (DS)

Publisher: Atlus So.-SEGA / Developer: SEGA / Genre: Puzzle / Release: 4-30-05

What is the world’s fascination with puzzles? People spend lots of their free time consumed by these, whether they be in the newspaper’s crosswords, on the Game Show Network, on their computers, or just plain old jigsaw puzzles, people are innately drawn to the challenge. Actual interactive puzzles have been around for years — the previously mentioned jigsaw puzzle dates back to 1760 London, and the infamous Rubik’s Cube was invented in 1974 by a Hungarian architecture professor of the same name. The cube has been estimated to have sold 100,000,000 copies (and, of those, hundreds have actually been solved). Then came the invention of Tetris in 1985 by a Russian computer engineer who was inspired by a game of pentominoes. The game became an instant success and was featured on everything from its native computer to consoles to the Game Boy (which brings back poignant memories of 3rd grade for me…riding to school with my bitch of a cousin who would never let me play Tetris on her Game Boy. That’s okay, though, I broke her Little Mermaid Barbie doll.).

What’s all this have to do with Puyo Pop Fever, you ask? Well, this little game, which will soon be hitting a DS near you, is yet another puzzle game that falls into those veins. If you aren’t familiar with the accomplished series, the game is vaguely similar to Tetris in terms of form and setup, but concerned with the creation of chains. These chains are composed of the cutest little orbs with expressive eyes — the player simply has to maneuver the falling orbs to line up like colors which will disappear if done correctly.

Okay, with the boring background stuff out of the way, let’s talk about story. Yes, Puyo Pop Fever has a storyline if you’re playing single mode. However, this is not the game for you if you’re looking for an in-depth story (it’s a puzzle game, so that’s not surprising). The story — when in tutorial and intermediate — deals with Amitie, a young girl who wants to excel at magic. To do this and claim a magical staff, she must triumph in the many stages against Puyo mages. The story section allows you to go through as Amitie, expert lets you play as Raffine (Amitie’s arch nemesis), and free battle mode allows you to practice against any of the characters you’ve unlocked — each with their own strengths. While the story may not be entirely engaging, it will give you a focus point when playing.

Everybody Puyo Pop is the multiplayer section of the game. This section will effectively use the DS’s dual screen, by fitting up to eight players’ games on them — so you can keep track of those cheating bastards you’re playing with. The game makes use of the Wi-Fi capabilities, so not every player has to go out and buy the game to join in the fun (though you won’t have to wait around for the game to download if you have it…Hmmm, a little extra wait time or go buy a game my friend’s already got..? No contest.).

However, some people don’t play well with others, and sometimes these people just want to play the old Puyo they remember. That’s where Endless Puyo comes in with several options. First of all, you can play the updated version of old school Puyo Puyo to gain as many points as possible, but as you progress you get thrown orbs of varying colors to make it more difficult to clear the screen. Next, you have the option of playing “Fever.” This is an incredibly fast-paced, timed game in which you will have to create chains and clear all the orbs. If you manage this you’ll extend your play time. Finally, you have the option of partaking in “Mission” mode. This mode presents you with a task, such as clearing a certain amount of orbs, and you must complete it to move on.

To control your orbs, you have two choices: the conventional face buttons and D pad, or your stylus. While it is an important part of the DS’s appeal, the stylus just isn’t as accurate in a game like this — especially when playing in story mode (Public service announcement: if you have a DS and want to play a game like this, do your investment a favor and get screen protectors or your touch screen will end up looking like the one on the Wal-Mart display DS).

Graphically, the game is quite…colorful. In fact, it’s so cute that my eight-year-old sister would gladly poison me just to get a hold of it (eh, well, she’d do that anyway). However, if you’re a loyal fan of the game or puzzle games in general, the cotton candy color scheme will likely not deter you.

The game is also pretty smart — if you have your DS set to display English, Puyo Pop Fever automatically loads into that language (text, voice-overs, etc), and the same thing happens if Japanese is your default. It’s also filled with upbeat music worthy of its graphics and cutesy voice-overs.

The game’s set for release at the end of April courtesy of Atlus.