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DS  header logo

Puyo Pop Fever

For: DS

Bursting your bubble

Product: Puyo Pop Fever | Developer: Sega | Publisher: UTV Ignition Games | Format: DS | Genre: Puzzle, Strategy | Players: 1-8 | Networking: wireless (adhoc) | Version: Europe
 
Puyo Pop Fever DS, thumbnail 1
It must be something in its genes, but the DS seems to attract coloured block-based puzzle games like roadkill attracts blowflies. Okay, so we all love Tetris, but does that mean we also need games such as Bust-A-Move, Meteos or Mr Driller, especially when Tetris DS is so good?

And where does this leave room for Puyo Pop Fever, one of the strangest puzzlers you're ever likely to come across? Because, to be honest, it's a bit of a dinosaur in game terms.

The concept – which sees you trying to group four or more blocks (actually, the blob creatures with funny faces are called puyos) of the same colour – has been around for 15 years, almost as long as Tetris itself. But whereas Tetris became a success on its 'let's tidy up' single-player mode, Puyo Pop Fever is all about competition.

As you can see from the game's screenshots, even in single-player mode, there are two playing areas on the DS' topscreen. You control the left hand one, rotating and moving the falling puyos into position in a similar way to Tetris. The righthand area is controlled by artificial intelligence, or one of your friends if you choose to play the wi-fi multiplayer mode. (The game supports up to eight players in its multiplayer form.)

The point is to organise the falling puyos into chains of four or more of the same colour. These can be any shape as long as all the puyos are adjacent to each other. By doing so, you earn garbage (or grey) puyos, which are automatically dropped onto your opponent's grid, slowly filling it up.

The more chains you make, the more garbage gets dropped. As you'd imagine, garbage puyos are bad news, as they reduce opportunities to make chains and only disappear if they're touching coloured puyos that are made into chains. It's a double whammy.

The trick to winning the game isn't to create loads of single chains, however. Instead, you must look to create chained combos. These occur when you make a chain of four or more blocks, which, when created, will then disappear from your playing area. This means any puyos on top of that chain fall into the gaps left behind, potentially making more chains as they make contact with the puyos beneath.

The end result, for skilled players at least, is the ability to create a sequence of chains that rack up loads of garbage puyos to be dumped onto their opponent.

It's a hard skill to learn, and in Puyo Pop Fever, there's a Fever power-up to help you. Like a bonus round, this is triggered as you fill up your Fever Bar by making chains. When the bar is full you're suddenly provided with puyo grids, which come pre-filled to enable you to easily trigger chain sequences. There's also a time limit for you to completely clear each grid of puyos, and as you clear one, the next, more complex one falls into place.

Of course as you complete these grids and your opponent's area fills up with garbage, it becomes harder for them to make their own chains. Eventually they'll run out of space, and you'll win. Well, that's the plan.

But it's this negative feeeback that's the biggest problem with Puyo Pop Fever on DS. Because the 6 x 12 block playing area is so tiny (t can be quite uncomfortable to play the game on the small DS screen for a long time), once garbage starts falling, it's difficult to build up any chains with which to retaliate. Too often victory belongs to the first player to get the first wave of garbage puyos onto their opponent's playing area.

One way the gamemakers try to get around this is with the distraction of a colourful Story mode, where you take the role of a young female magician (you can either choose Amitie or her rival Raffine) looking to find a flying cane that's been lost. Here you have to overcome various wacky characters who each have their own ways of playing Puyo Pop Fever to recover the magical article.

Still, despite this mode, the game's pretty cartoon style and J-pop leanings, and an Endless mode where you can try to better your highscore, it's all rather thin stuff, even with the much-vaunted eight way multiplayer option.

Frankly, Puyo Pop Fever is the sort of puzzle game most people can do without. Fever? You'll probably have more excitement taking an aspirin.
 
Puyo Pop Fever
Reviewer photo
Jon Jordan | 3 August 2006
Despite its reputation as a Japanese classic, the real puzzle about Puyo Pop Fever is who needs it on DS?
 
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