Meteos

Tetsuya Mizuguchi's first DS title, is a blockbuster.


The Lowdown

Pros: An addictive puzzle game, fit for quick bursts of play.

Cons: Compared to other DS titles Meteos doesn't look like much.

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Since Tetsuya Mizuguchi (creator of the much loved Rez and Space Channel 5) left Sega and started his own studio Q? he's made two puzzle games. His first game was a PSP launch title, Lumines. Lumines was what fans of his work expected, a music based puzzle title. The second project by Q? is totally unique and designed with the DS in mind. If I had to explain Meteos to someone I'd say it's a mix of Tetris, bejeweled and puzzle fighter. It oversimplifies the game, but it'll give you a good idea about Meteos.

Every round in Meteos has you defend a planet. Even though you have space age technology the battle isn't fought with lasers. Blocks that represent different elements will fall from the sky on the bottom screen. When three of the same element are paired together you'll create a jets that blast the blocks up the top screen. Removing the blocks not only saves you from a filled screen, but it attacks the invaders. Matches in Meteos are played out like a multiplayer game where its you against an alien or a couple of aliens. While you're shuttling blocks to the top screen you'd better bet that the other player(s) or the computer is doing the same thing. All of the blocks shot up by your opponent will appear on your screen on top of the regular blocks. If you're smart enough to clear the screen, you can speed up block flow by holding the L or R buttons. The longer you play, the faster blocks fall from the sky. If a stack of blocks reaches the second screen, it's game over. The whole experience is pretty intense. Blistering speed means most matches are really fast, five minutes tops.

Building a good rocket is a challenge on it's own. There's a weight factor involved. If you have a lot of blocks to move, the rocket will move slower. It might even get sent back to the ground depending on the planet's gravity, which varies area to area. To counteract a falling ship of blocks you can match up three elements on the rocket and give it an even more powerful boost. Some planets are designed with gravity that forces players to chain combos just to lift a few pieces up at a time. Differences in each area force players to switch tactics, which makes gameplay pretty interesting. Another factor you have to watch out for is falling pieces. If these other pieces land on you're rocket they could weight it down or possibly provide opportunity for a combo.

While the core gameplay is essentially the same Meteos has a few different play options. For a fast game you can pick "Meteos" mode where you can battle up to three other opponents in a frantic battle. You can also play this mode alone and concentrate on mastering your rocket technique. The other quick play option is a time attack. If you play time attack you can challenge yourself to see if you can survive a full five minutes or see how long it takes to shoot 1000 pieces to the top screen. If you have fifteen minutes or more of playtime there is a story mode to play through called star trip". In star trip you start off at planet the planet inhabiting those neon blue aliens that are all over the Meteos box. After you win that match you have a choice of where to go next on your trip to planet Meteos. Battling through star trip will get your one ending out of ten or so. If you want to see more endings you'll have to play through star trip and choose a different path.

After your star trip or a quick play game you'll earn some elements. These elements can be spent to unlock a bunch of other stuff. You can unlock new planets to play on. Or instead you can purchase new items, that may drop down to help you quickly clear blocks. There is a bomb that can clear an entire row of blocks and a giant hammer that will pound blocks into oblivion. Gamers can also unlock new songs with elements. Since each unlockable item can take hundreds of elements or require a rare element like time or soul, you'll have to spend a fair amount of time to get everything. The way the game unlocks stuff is smart too, just when you think you've done everything you'll have enough elements to unlock something new.

In comparison to other DS games Meteos looks simple. It's not in 3D and doesn't have anything really jaw dropping. The aliens have a cool style to them, looking like symbols and all. Yet, this is nothing in comparison to other titles. Because of the lack of polish in Meteos gamers may overlook this in favor of say Mario 64. One thing that was a little disappointing was the soundtrack in Meteos. Rez, Space Channel 5 and Lumines all have phenomenal music selection. It's not that Meteos is horribly bad, it's passing.

If you're not sure that Meteos is your style of game you can download it from someone who owns it. A single copy of Meteos can be copied over onto someone else's DS via the wireless port. The copy will disappear as soon as the DS is turned off, but it will give gamers a chance to experience this title. Meteos takes advantage of the DS's wireless capabilities with a wireless multiplayer mode too. Up to four players can choose their planets and battle it out. Wireless multiplayer also only requires one cart, which makes this a perfect game to carry around and play in an airport.

Meteos is defiantly an example of innovative gameplay that can be done with a touch screen. It also makes a perfect portable game since you can play a match with just mere minutes to spare. If you have a DS and know someone that owns Meteos, download it from them. Play it for ten minutes and you'll be hooked on this puzzler.

Import Friendly? Literacy Level:2

Once you get through the Japanese menus, you'll find that the game is easy to play. Some importers may miss out on the quirky story and understanding what they are unlocking.

US Bound?

Bandai is localizing this title and has it scheduled for a release in either April or May 2005.

Overall

Meteos is a born sleeper hit. It's one of the best puzzlers in a long time, with wireless multiplayer and plenty of unlockable features to keep gamers coming back.