Pokemon Puzzle Challenge
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Panel de Pon. That's the name of a very popular and addictive videogame puzzle series in Japan, and when Nintendo released this game to US gamers back in the early 1990s the company branded it with a familiar license: Tetris. More specifically, Tetris Attack. The game bared little resemblance to the Russian puzzle game, but Nintendo used the Tetris license to give the game a more recognizable title in order to sell more copies.
Keeping that in mind, Nintendo has done it again with Panel de Pon but instead of the Tetris license, the company enlisted the Pokemon license to sell the game this time around. Pokemon Puzzle Challenge is, at its core, the same design that was introduced in Tetris Attack, but it's now made specifically for the Game Boy Color crowd. And it's still as fun and addictive as it ever was it's just been cutified with Pocket Monsters.
Six puzzle modes
Battery save at anytime during the game
Link cable support for two palyers
Only for Game Boy Color
In a rising pit of colored blocks, it's your task to continuously eliminate these tiles by switching two tiles' positions on the horizontal row. When three or more tiles link up in a up/down or left/right fashion, they disappear. Gravity kicks in and settles the rest of the tiles into the bin this can cause a chain reaction to occur since other blocks of the same color can fall into place next to each other. It's up to you to continuously work the bin to wipe out tiles by making combination connections and chain reactions.
That's the game in a nutshell, but there are several modes of play that'll keep your fingers busy. In the game's Challenge mode, for example, you're up against a computer opponent and you'll have to make combos and chain reactions to send garbage blocks to his unseen screen but keep in mind your opponent's doing the same to you. The game has a Marathon mode where, like in Tetris, you're just playing the same bin at an ever-increasing speed until you can't keep up anymore. There's also a Time Mode where the challenge is to get as high a score as possible in a set amount of seconds. Line clear is the same game but you'll have to work your way deep into the bin and get all tiles below a designated finish line. Garbage Mode is a good practice option that combines Marathon mode with the Challenge mode as you work your way into an endless bin, you're continuously assaulted with garbage blocks. And finally, the game has one more cool option Puzzle. This mode gives you a specific tile layout, and you'll have to find the proper strategy to remove all the blocks in only a few moves.
Pokemon Puzzle League also has a great link cable mode that lets two players enjoy the Challenge mode each player's task is to create combos and chain reactions that will throw garbage blocks on the other player's screen. It's a best-of-three bout, but once you're in this mode you might find it hard to stop playing.
We're not going to ignore the fact that the Pokemon are used merely as a selling tool, but at least they've been integrated into the game design as much as possible. The game features both Pokemon and Pokemon GS characters as your on-screen persona they provide the "character" by making cute faces when you're winning or losing, or when you're about to screw the other player. They're also used to mark "lives" for when you're in Challenge Mode if you lose all your Pokemon during the "battle", then the game's over. Luckily, during the Challenge, random "trainers" will challenge you to a battle, and if you beat them you will acquire their Pokemon used during the round. Keep in mind that these challenges are a lot harder than the standard gym battles, and they show up randomly to make acquiring Pokemon a much more special event. And the audio is completely Pokemon each creature makes the same "howl" during battles that's used in the RPG, and the music pieces are remixed tunes from Red, Blue, Yellow, Gold and Silver.
The game does have a lot to follow, since Nintendo also released the design as Pokemon Puzzle League on the N64. While the interface is much cleaner in the Game Boy Color title, the N64 game has two great features that didn't make the portable cut: Puzzle Edit, and 3D Mode. The 3D Mode we can understand, as the Game Boy Color hardware doesn't have the display or horsepower to push the 3D rotating cylinder of colored tiles, but the Puzzle Edit mode would have been a great addition -- imagine making your own puzzles to send to friend's cartridges over their link cables. But it's a small omission, and not enough to detract from the great overall package of Pokemon
The overall design is an amazingly addictive and maniacal puzzle game, and it gives the fingers a serious workout when you fall into the zone. The game' snot as universally addictive as Tetris is, but it's darn close. The game requires much more thought in creating combinations and chain reactions, which makes the game flow less smoothly as a game where you can mindlessly play for hours like Tetris. Still, the game has been a favorite since its introduction in the early '90s, and its return to the Game Boy Color (with Pokemon) is a welcome one indeed.