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Once upon a time, there was a tiny heroine named Chicken Little. This fledgling farm animal spent her days walking through the woods, enjoying the sweet bliss of her fairy tale existence. But one day, she endured a highly traumatic accident as she was making her daily jaunt through the forest. A rogue acorn fell from one of the trees, crashing down on poor Chicken Little’s head. The blow to her brains must have dislodged something, because she started running around, screaming that the apocalypse had come and the sky was falling. Thinking that humanity’s fate was left in her hands, Chicken Little gathered all of her paranoid friends and embarked on an epic quest to warn the king of the world’s demise. The journey to salvation was short lived though, as the little band animals soon discovered that Chicken Little had simply lost her marbles in the accident and needed some therapy. Thus they all lived happily ever after, living in solitude under a stationary sky…

Until now.

This time the sky really is falling, and falling hard. A single planet called Meteo is gathering compacted matter and flinging it off into the cosmos, directly in the path of the dozens of planets that make up the solar system. These “Meteos” come crashing down out of the sky, crushing innocent bystanders and rendering dozens of other planets on the brink of annihilation. World after world succumbed to this almighty force, civilizations crumbling under the brute force of their alien invaders. But as hope began to fade and despair took root, a chance encounter tipped the balance of power and gave the inhabitants a strategy that could wipe out the threat of the Meteos and restore peace to the galaxy once again. Thus, the quest for salvation is left in your hands. With the fate of the very universe hanging in the balance of existence and annihilation, you’ve got a long journey ahead of you.

You’ll travel around the various planets that make up the galaxy. As the timer starts up and the Meteos start falling, it’s up to you to apply the defensive strategy that will supposedly lead you to victory. Apparently, if three Meteos of the same element are aligned, they’ll fuse together and rocket off back into space, thus ridding the world of any threat of their extraterrestrial enemies. Using your stylus, you’ll be able to maneuver the Meteos along their respective stacks and columns, allowing you to put them in prime ignition position. Once you manage to get three of the same type next to each other, they’ll blow up in a haze of sparkly stardust and go flying back into the faces of your despised foes. However, you can’t stop to celebrate. While some Meteos are being launched into orbit, the deadly blocks will continue to fall, forcing you to remain focused and vigilant throughout your campaign.

While the basic concept of moving blocks seems simple enough, the task of actually executing it proves a little more daunting. There’s nothing particularly difficult about taking your little stylus and using it to match up blocks. At least, until you’re being overwhelmed by the constant onslaught of Meteos raining down onscreen, picking up speed over time and eventually filling the arena in mere seconds. You’ve got to think and act fast, lest you inadvertently destroy the world with your lacking gaming abilities. But if you can’t quite seem to get the hang of saving the planet, you’ll have an arsenal of bombs, weights, and an assortment of blunt objects at your disposal, allowing you to wipe out countless Meteos at the mere press of the stylus.

Of course, you could utilize a glaring flaw that knocks the quality of the gameplay down a few notches. While being able to spot possible combinations at the drop of the hat and utilize a wide arsenal of weapons, you may find it easier to just randomly running your stylus over the screen, letting you shuffle through the vast horde of Meteos and eliminating the need for searching out fusion opportunities. While this tactic is not quite as effective on higher difficulties, it does serve as the ultimate temptation for the lazy puzzle gamer looking for a high score without the work. If you manage to curb the habit, you’ll find the challenge a rewarding experience mixed with the satisfaction of a job well done.

Abusable flaws aside, the game rewards you for your efforts to save mankind. Once you’ve finally managed to rid the planet of the alien scourge, you can use the Meteos you’ve burned up and fuse them together to create a huge assortment of new planets, soundtracks, rare Meteo metals, and a few new weapons to keep your crusade running like a well-oiled machine. All of these features require varying amounts of Meteos, thus forcing you to constantly replay the game to collect even more of the airborne deathtraps. Thankfully, the game comes with a decent variety of gameplay modes, featuring three separate progressive stories in Star Trip Mode, and a few different challenges under the Time Wars Mode. But if you’re in the need for a quick gaming fix, both the Simple and Deluge Modes let you get started in the blink of an eye.

Your epic gaming journey will take you into the dark heart of the cosmos, touring you through countless planets of remarkable beauty and artistic style. While the Meteos themselves come a varied assortment of simple blocks, shapes, colors, and lights, the worlds they’re endangering are far more appealing to the eye. From the massive puffs of clouds on Yooj to the fiery depths of Jeljel to the vast fields of Florias, all of the planets are presented with vividly drawn backgrounds and colorful imagery. If you manage to catch a glimpse of the screen before it gets stacked high with Meteos, you’ll be treated to wonderfully detailed landscapes just waiting to be saved. Not only are the planets nicely drawn, but they also sport their own soundtracks of catchy electronica music and various sound effects to make the game a little less bland. While the DS is capable of rendering three-dimensional imagery, this presentation still serves as a prime example of what a newer generation puzzle game should look like.

After all of these months, the DS is finally getting its share of great games to flesh out its still miniscule library. With games like Polarium, Puyo Pop, and Zoo Keeper, it seems that Nintendo’s latest portable was just made for decent puzzle game action. But now that Meteos has taken center stage as one of the great DS games on the market, we now have a reason to hunch over our Touch Screens and get lost in a haze of addictive quality gameplay. Is Meteos the perfect game? No. Is it still one of the greatest games on the DS, and one of the best handheld puzzlers currently out? Absolutely. This game takes everything we love about puzzle games, tweaks it, and serves it to us on a silver platter. Meteos serves as a positive mark for the DS, and we can only hope that the games will continue to improve as time progresses.

8 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2005.

Gentle persuasion

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