Pros: Neat camera tricks, excellent gameplay tweaks, very fast paced
Cons: Seems too fast paced at times and a little unbalanced
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
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
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.
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
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.
While Puyo Pop Fever doesn't have a specific release date, we are
confident it will come to North America at some time.
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.