Saturday, March 6, 2010

Pokemon Puzzle League (N64) Retro Review

Let's do our first retro review of the month, shall we? It's for a Tetris Attack successor known simply as Pokemon Puzzle League for the Nintendo 64. Get your blocks off with this review.

Leagues Above Other Puzzlers

The original Tetris Attack was quite unlike the original Tetris. In fact, besides having colored blocks, it really had nothing to do with it. The game starred Yoshi as he played through several levels challenging opponents such as Wiggler and Navel Piranha in Panel de Pon combat. The second iteration on this classic formula is one of a gotta-catch-em-all theme, Pokemon. Is Pokemon Puzzle League the perfect puzzler?

Pokemon Puzzle League is set in the anime Pokemon world starring Ash Ketchum and all the lovable and not-so-lovable characters from the hit TV series. One day while relaxing poolside with his best buddy Pikachu, Ash gets a call from Professor Oak informing him that he's been accepted into the Pokemon Puzzle League contest. Without any hint of hesitation, Ash accepts and him and Pikachu head off to Puzzle Village to compete against puzzlers from all around the Kanto region.

Pikachu, stylish as always.

Pokemon Puzzle League has loads of things to do inside it. Who knew there could be so many variations of Tetris Attack/Panel de Pon? There's the one-player stadium mode where the trainer of your choosing goes off against the eight gym leaders to earn badges symbolizing your victory over said gym leaders. There's marathon mode where you play Tetris Attack until you can't go on any longer with an increasingly faster game board, line attack where the goal is to beat down Team Rocket while keeping your blocks under a certain line in order to clear the round, and puzzle mode where you're tasked to clear a series of blocks in a select amount of moves. There's also a new 3D mode which has you playing Tetris Attack among a tube which you can rotate around for three-dimensions of Panel de Pon action.

Match three or more same-colored
blocks in a row to clear them.

The gameplay of Puzzle League is very reminiscent of the early Tetris Attack game starring Yoshi. It's essentially that game with Pokemon paint painted all over it. You have a tower of multi-colored blocks that steadily rise to the top of the screen. Let them reach the top of the screen, and it's game over. To clear blocks, you need to match three or more same-colored blocks in a row either vertically or horizontally. The more blocks you chain together and combos you earn, the more points you score. In competitive matches, these chains and combos drop garbage blocks onto the opposition's side that can only be destroyed by clearing blocks adjacent to it. Watch out though as your opponent can also send out garbage blocks your way, too. As the game progresses, the stack of blocks rises faster and faster with little room for error.

Garbage blocks can be quite troublesome!

Pokemon Puzzle League's presentation is pretty much what you'd expect from a Pokemon game of this kind. There's plenty of Pokemon in the backgrounds, Jigglypuff is in charge of slowing and speeding up the board, and constant colorful characters parade around the screen. It's very pleasant to see. An opening anime cut-scene shows off Ash's acceptance into the Puzzle League, and the soundtrack is mostly based on remixes of the old 2.B.A. Master Pokemon soundtrack CD. Some might find the presentation too saccharin, however, for their tastes.

Ultimately, Pokemon Puzzle League doesn't stray too far from its Tetris Attack roots which can be a good thing or bad thing considering who you talk to. There's plenty of modes, challenges to face off against, and the competitive play is still as fast and frantic as ever. Those looking for some big innovation in the formula should look elsewhere, but for everyone else, Pokemon Puzzle League is a competent puzzler in its own right.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.25/10]

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