in my last post i had written about getting back to the panel de pon, aka tetris attack, aka puzzle league series, and i had been, quite frankly, somewhat demoralized by my recent experience with pokemon puzzle challenge. i thought i’d skip over the GBA version and try dipping into the DS iteration, planet puzzle league, since i had it on hand. like the GBA version the DS game eschews both yoshi and pokemon trappings and instead like many other recent puzzle games opts for a very lumines (i.e. trippy techno) influenced design.
as i’d expected, my poor performance in pokemon puzzle challenge wasn’t just due to my gradual decline towards senility. as i mentioned in that post, the size of the board definitely plays a factor (it’s significantly smaller in both the GB and GBC titles), but comparing it to planet puzzle league it immediately becomes apparent that that game gives you much more time to create “active” chains (i.e. making chains during the small pause before the blocks drop due to gravity). i’m guessing the amount of time is about the same as the N64, but in the case of pokemon puzzle challenge you have to rely on setting up all of your chains before you set them off, which is much more difficult and limiting.
the ability to make chains more easily made the game much more enjoyable than the GBC title, and overall the game is easier than the N64 game as well. the biggest change, though, is that the DS version introduces touchscreen controls to the series for the first time (and also allows you to hold the DS sideways as in brain age or in its usual orientation). this addition almost makes the game feel a bit too easy, but it’s probably the biggest evolution the series has seen thus far and helps make this the most addictive game in the series yet. there are all the standard puzzle game modes (marathon, time attack, etc.), plus the addition of wi-fi friend and random battles and items in VS mode with all the abilities that you’d expect.
it’s easy to see why the game received such a warm reception when it was released, and it’s probably the first game in the series to really rival the pitch-perfect original. the game was also released on DSiware in a stripped-down version (mostly due to excluding multiplayer features), but copies of the original DS version should be fairly readily available. in either case this is a wholly enjoyable title and certainly earns a spot near the top of the games i’ve played thus far this year.