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Puyo Pop Fever

I first experienced Puyo Pop on the GBA years ago. I don’t know what made it so captivating, but lining up multicolored balls of goop was incredibly addictive. Amazingly, the campy storyline and goofy characters only managed to pull me into the game more. I embraced these nostalgic feelings as I loaded up Puyo Pop Fever. My brain was filled with happiness, glee, and even expectation (feelings I rarely get from video games anymore). These feelings were crushed instantly by the music that pulsed out of my DS’ tiny little speakers as the cartridge loaded up. I have never been so negatively affected by a soundtrack, which consists solely of a series of high-pitched whines accompanied by the sounds of bells and a few lower-pitched whines. The title-track is finally capped off by something that’s absolutely worse: the first in a series of awful voice-overs screaming out “PUYO POP FEEEEEEEEEVER!”

These awful sound effects don’t help the boring storyline at all. I expected a campy storyline in this edition too, but any charm is lost in Puyo Pop Fever because the developers decided to use the awful voice actors to narrate the tale. While I’ve probably heard worse actors in games before and I’m just blocking those painful memories out, the actors in this game stand out in my mind as some of the worst I’ve had to endure. It’s painfully obvious that they’re simply reading straight off the script and not trying to be interesting. They all talk VERY slowly too, so even short conversations between characters seem unnecessarily drawn out and even a little retarded.

I turned the sound off rather quickly and skipped most of the story sequences. It’s sad that I skipped so much of it, because the storyline is presented through colorful cutscenes with strange looking characters that are fun to at least look at. In case you’re wondering, there are little text boxes on the screen that have the storyline written out, but even still, I couldn’t get all that interested in the quest to recover some sort of item for the main characters teacher. Storylines just don’t appeal to me anymore if they don’t involve shit exploding.

Even if they did fuck the storyline and soundtrack up pretty badly, the fundamental gameplay that made me so addicted to my earlier Puyo Pop experiences is still intact. You still move your Puyo blobs and line them up with the same color Puyo so they’ll disappear from your screen. Getting rid of the Puyo on your side drops little blocks down on your opponents screen that make it harder for them. Whoever manages their Puyo better, wins. It’s as simple as that. It’s a lot like Tetris in its simplicity, setup, and addictiveness. There’s nothing too complex here and it really does little to innovate the puzzle genre, but even still, it’s a lot of fun in a “pick up and play” sort of way, which makes it a perfect offering for a handheld.

Puyo Pop Fever makes very little use of the DS touchpad. You can use your wand to spin the Puyo around on screen and the like, but it’s unresponsive and it’s a lot easier just to hit the face buttons. Even as I followed the instructions in the manual as best as I could, rotating the Puyo was too difficult. I’m sure it’s pretty hard to come up with an implementation of a touchpad in a puzzle game, but I think they should have found some ways to make it a little more user friendly and, well, required.

As far as it goes, Puyo Pop Fever’s gameplay is still addictive and rewardingly challenging, but it just wasn’t the same for me this time around. Maybe I’ve just grown out of the franchise in the years that it’s been dormant in the US. Or maybe I’m letting nostalgia cloud my judgment. Or maybe it just never was that good to begin with. I don’t really know. While the core gameplay is fundamentally the same, Puyo Pop Fever just didn’t grab me like Puyo Pop on the GBA did. It’s still a good game, but there are a few other puzzlers on the DS that I think are worth your time over this one.

7 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2003.

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