Puyo Pop Fever

Fast paced action and logical thinking in one game, can it be true?


The Lowdown

Pros: Neat camera tricks, excellent gameplay tweaks, very fast paced

Cons: Seems too fast paced at times and a little unbalanced

Purchase at Play-Asia

Countless of puzzle games are variations of the classic block puzzler Tetris. There have been too many puzzlers where block type objects fall from the sky to name, but where others have failed the Puyo series remains strong. The Puyo Pop series has been around since the days of the Genesis and Super NES. One big spin on the Tetris formula that the Puyo series adds is competition play. Puyo Pop and the latest version, Puyo Pop fever is meant to be played with someone else. Half of what makes the game so fun is the puzzle fighting action compared to passively playing puzzle games.

While Puyo Pop Fever has similarities to Tetris, it isn't an exact copy. Objects fall from the sky, but instead of blocks they are different colored blobs called puyos. If you can connect four or more puyos in a row the blobs will clear the screen giving you more room to work. The puyos don't need to be in a row or on top of each other, they just need to be touching an adjacent puyo  If you clear a set of puyos you can create a combo by matching more puyos while the puyos on top of the cleared puyos drop down. Chaining puyos will cause nuisance puyos to drop on an enemies puyo grid. Nuisance puyos are colorless blobs that can only be cleared by clearing puyos on top of the nuisance puyos. If your screen gets covered in puyos of any color its game over. Got all of that? If you've never touched Puyo Pop or another fighting game this might sound a little convoluted, but its really simple. It's almost natural to get in and play the game, but it takes a little while to master the art of chaining.

Unlike Tetris or other block games the object isn't only to clear pieces from your side of the screen. You need to clear multiple pieces in a single move. The art of chaining is essential because the more you chain the more nuisance puyos appear on your opponents screen. If an opponent gets a humungous chain you still have a chance to defend yourself from a barrage of nuisance puyos. If you can clear some puyos from your side or better yet do a chain combo yourself, you'll eliminate the nuisance puyos before they even land on your screen. As a bonus for successfully defending yourself a bar will be added to the new "fever" meter. When the meter fills up you're thrown into fever mode. In fever mode the game sets up puyos for easy chaining. During this limited amount of time you can do some real damage to the other player since you can make multiple combos. The catch is you're only in fever mode for a short period of time. Once you leave fever mode you're back to whatever your set up was before entering fever mode.

The addition of fever mode adds a whole new element to the gameplay. Instead of worrying about building a massive chain of combos you can play very defensively. Countering all your opponent's chains to fill your fever meter. Then when fever mode comes its you're chance to strike. Since fever mode already sets you up with combos it is easy to eliminate an enemy since you will be making a steady stream of large combos. While its fun for the person in fever mode it isn't fun for the opponent. Sometimes the amount of pieces dropped from entering fever mode one time is enough to cause a game over. If you aren't constantly countering nuisances puyos before they drop you'll be having a real hard time just staying alive. Not only does it seem a little unfair it makes the game almost favor defensive players compared to aggressive ones.

Puyo Pop Fever also made some neat graphical enhancements to make the game feel faster and more action packed. One really neat effect is when you get a chain the camera tilts in so you can see your pieces fall into place. The cool effects are amplified in fever mode because when you get a combo there you're treated to an explosive blast showing your puyos disappear. The game also has some cut scenes with the anime drawn characters that you can choose from. The sprites have a paper doll pasted on a background feel to them, but regardless they're all clear and detailed. However, when you're in the actually game itself the graphics look like they're from the late days of the Super NES. Although puzzle games never relied on their graphics as a selling point, a little more of an in game graphical upgrade would have been nice.

Audio wise the game feature a lot of voiceovers. The voiceovers tell the story of a little magician girl who is a journey. On the way there are "challenges", which are all solved by playing Puyo Pop. The number of voiceovers in the story are vast, but the senselessness of the story forces people to mash circle to get through them. The voiceovers come in both English and Japanese for the Japanese version of the game, which is something that importers can look forward to. The music in the game leaves a lot to be desired. It's simplistic MIDI sounding music, that gets boring very quickly. Here's where the addition of a custom soundtrack would be nice. You'll probably mute the game's volume in favor of a favorite CD.

While Puyo Pop Fever is best enjoyed with a friend the game features some "training modes" for first players. Besides the story mode, which helps people get acquainted with the game mechanics. There is a fever only mode where you have sixty seconds to get as many points as you can. Successfully clearing all the puyos will add more time and a lot more points. There is classic endless mode where you play to get the highest score and longest chain without an opponent to drop nuisance puyos on you. While these other modes are nice to practice on they don't offer too much single player gameplay. The story mode is a nice addition, but it can be beaten pretty fast. After all Puyo Pop Fever is designed for with a second player in mind. So, it is best enjoyed with a buddy or two.

Puyo Pop Fever is not without its flaws. New gamers coming into the puzzle fighting genre will get frustrated with the ease you can lose the game. If an opponent gets a massive chain, there is almost nothing that can be done to prevent you from losing the match. While this is a problem, it doesn't deter from enjoying the game too much. If you stick with it you will learn quickly and enjoy a rock solid puzzle game. Once you get into it find Puyo Pop surprisingly addictive and more fun each time you play it.

Console Comparison

Puyo Pop Fever is being released for all of the major systems, including the Dreamcast. Although it is released for the PS2 and Dreamcast first. Honestly, there isn't too much difference between the consoles. So if you're going to pick it up all of the versions fare equally well.

Import Friendly?

Puyo Pop Fever features a switch between Japanese and English. Switching to English will not only change the menus to English, but the voiceovers, too. This means you'll get full enjoyment of the game even without understanding Japanese.

US Bound?

While Puyo Pop Fever doesn't have a specific release date, we are confident it will come to North America at some time.

Overall

Puyo Pop Fever is a game that anyone can enjoy and anyone can learn if they stick through a few losses. The best part is the fever mode, which adds a fresh element of counterattacking to the puzzle fighting genre.