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For: PSP   Also on: DS

Reading between the lines

Product: Gunpey | Developer: Q Entertainment | Publisher: Atari Inc. | Format: PSP | Genre: Puzzle | Players: 1-2 | Networking: wireless (adhoc) | Version: Europe
Gunpey PSP, thumbnail 1
To look at it you'd never be able to tell, but Gunpey, Q Entertainment's latest puzzle game for the PSP, has an undercurrent of melancholy running beneath its bright and fizzing visuals.

The game was named after one Gunpei Yokoi, the Nintendo employee who invented, amongst other things, none other than the Game Boy back in 1989. Gunpei was killed in a road traffic accident in 1997, and to commemorate his brilliant video gaming achievements and inventions, this game was created, misspelled and released in his honour.

It's an inevitable comparison, but in many ways Gunpey is reminiscent of Tetris, that exemplary handheld puzzle game that debuted on Yokoi's Game Boy and fuelled ten million obsessive compulsive tidying disorders.

The premise is certainly similar. The game is played out in a vertically positioned rectangle, five blocks wide and ten lines high. Panels containing one of four differently shaped lines rise from the bottom of the screen, one line at a time. The idea is to connect an unbroken line across the width of the screen in order to make all of the five comprising blocks disappear.

Blocks can be swapped up and down (but not left and right) by using the cursor to drag them accordingly. If any blocks make it to the top of the screen before you can clear them, it's game over.

While that sounds a little complicated on paper / screen, when playing the game it's immediately clear what you're meant to be doing and the simplicity and elegance of the system presents no real complications: it's simply a case of your ordering mind being pitched against your PSP's ever rising tide of debris.

Small modifiers are introduced, in that while lines are cleared by making a single line horizontally across the five panels, any diverging lines attached to and branching off the main line will also explode.

Soon you'll have multiple connecting panels all over the screen being cleared in glorious feats of forward planning. Later still, you'll be busily connecting panels while the one you've just finished is in the process of exploding.

Anyone who has played Gunpey developer Q Entertainment's Lumines or Every Extend Extra games will know to expect 40 skins (visual and audio-based levels) to play through, each soundtracked by a different artist. What will be more of a surprise is the dearth of the extra modes the developer's two previous games so enjoyed.

There are several basic ways to play the game. 'Standard' rules has cleared panels leaving the panels above them in the same place, whereas 'Break' rules sees any panels above a cleared line fall down into the space they've left. In reality it's a tiny distinction, and choosing Break rules essentially just makes the game a little bit easier by affording the player some extra moment's grace.

Otherwise there's just a simple two-player versus mode, a Hard option where the playing area increases to a 10x10 grid, and a Super Tricky mode in which you play two games simultaneously, swapping between them by hitting the triggers. 

This toughening up in the surplus game modes is hugely unnecessary – the game will feel extremely hard as it is to all but the most practiced puzzle game fanatic. Indeed, it will take quite a few games before you've built up the necessary reaction time and foresight to clear lines quickly enough to progress through even the earliest skins.

That said, Gunpey manages to create the irresistible 'one more go' urge that marks all of the very best puzzle games. It's not quite Tetris, but it's still a worthy legacy.
Reviewer photo
Simon Parkin | 5 April 2007
A simple and straightforward package, light on extras but boasting an excellent core that will particularly please puzzle fans with a penchant for order and neatness
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