Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Puyo Puyo CD

Compile / NEC Avenue
Super CD-ROM

For those unacquainted with the legendary sport, Puyo Puyo is a pastime that will immediately bring to mind memories of Tetris, although it actually fits in best with the ilk of Columns. Maneuver four blobs of the same color into a string of solid contact with one another (no diagonals) and they'll vanish from your well and cause a boatload of crap (in the form of colorless blobs) to descend upon your enemy’s stack. Of course, blobs that had been resting upon those you made disappear will fall into the newly unoccupied slots, allowing for additional slime obliteration (and causing even more trash to bombard your hapless opponent’s pile). The transparent nuisances can be annihilated only if they come in contact with a vanishing thread of their colorful counterparts.

The "eliminating adjacent blobs" gameplay is fine, but the endearing characters, with their pre-match antics and hilarious in-game shouts and howls, are truly what sets Puyo apart from most well-type puzzlers.

Valiant (if often teary-eyed) Arle is a lovable little heroine, while her adversaries (among whom is the famously volatile Skeleton-T) are spirited miscreants. Humorous voice acting supplies interjections of happiness and despondency, while irresistibly catchy tracks add to the charming atmosphere (but be prepared for an awesome change of pace during the final battle, which takes place to the tune of a riff-fest more than just a little reminiscent of M.U.S.H.A.'s metal).

Don't be fooled by all the cute stuff, though--Puyo Puyo CD is hard. Your computer-controlled opponents all have their own individual playing styles; they don't merely become quicker and smarter as you advance through their ranks. This is very cool, but it also makes them extremely tough to play against. In fact, during later matches, I frequently find myself with little recourse but to hope I hit upon a large unplanned combo. Surviving the thirteen-fiend gauntlet can actually take hours. Of course, if you need a break from the one-player trial, there’s always the highly enjoyable two-player competitive mode.

Puyo Puyo CD certainly isn’t as ingenious a creation as Tetris is, but it’s far more lovable and just as addicting. The fact that it can keep players hooked throughout its lengthy and difficult one-player gauntlet is a testament to its brilliance. And once you do finally complete the adventure, you’ll probably sit back with a smile on your face and think to yourself, “Two-player mode from now on. I’m never going through that again.”

But you will.

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