Puyo Pop


   The Puyo Puyo formula is one that has been tested time and time again in Japan; the game has been released no less than 34 times over a dozen systems in Japan. However, even with all of the variations, the game has only ever seen one U.S. release incorporating the Puyo name, and that was for the niche Neo Geo Pocket machine. Sega has finally given the series a mainstream release incorporating the Puyo name, even though in the end the result is somewhat disappointing.

   Puyo Pop plays just as any other Puyo title (or the licensed versions, Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine and Kirby's Avalanche) has in the past - two colored blobs float down from the sky, giving the player time to rotate them. Once they hit the ground, another pair starts its decent. The player lines up the Puyos, trying to arrange them so that four or more of the same color are touching. After the final Puyo falls into place, all of the blobs of the same color disappear, and any Puyos that were being supported by the now absent blobs fall. Obviously, this can lead to Puyos chain reacting and forming combos, which nets you additional points. While this concept, like many puzzle games, sounds simple, there are hours of gameplay involved.
  Puyo Pop
Everyone Puyo!

   Sega has included a few varieties of Puyo Puyo in the release. The first of these is simply titled Single Puyo Pop. One of two single-player varieties, Single Puyo sets the player up against a variety of Puyo matches against different opponents, each with aan extremely loose story based around them. Most of the introductions to these characters are so inane and contrived that one has to wonder why Sega even bothered translating it. However, the reason to buy a puzzle game is never a story, and usually this is where the game would redeem itself. While the Puyo concept is solid and time-tested, Single Puyo fails in the excution because of one simple factor: difficulty. The single-player matches matches start out normally, but after a minute or so, the computer gains the amazing ability to pull off incredible combos. Alhough this in and of itself isn't all that bad, the fact that every combo that the computer executes builds up unbreakable rocks in your playing field, up to five and six rocks deep across the width of the field, makes things just a bit unwieldy. To add insult to injury, this happens on every difficulty level, including easy. While the Japanese may be experts at the game, having so many versions to practice with, the average U.S. gamer won't be able to pull off the combos needed to keep up. Put simply, the learning curve on the single-player mode is so insanely steep that most people won't even bother trying.

   Luckily, the game redeems itself in the form of Double Puyo Pop and Everybody Puyo Pop, the multiplayer modes in the title. These are nothing more than playing without the storyline against human opponents who do not have the ability to pull off practically illegal combos; in other words, this is the way that the game should be played. Making things even better is the fact that only one player needs a copy of Puyo Pop to run the game, taking advantage of the GameBoy Advance's improved link cable. Of course, making the only playable version of a portable game its two-player mode isn't the wisest choice, but the multi-player options are what saves the game from being a total waste.
Puyo Pop
You think you're doing well, and then... BAM.

   For those who don't have access to multiple GameBoy Advance units, not to mention the friends to operate them, Puyo Pop does offer another form of single-player gameplay in the form of Endless Mode. Players can select either Normal or Task versions; the former is rather self-explanitory, while the latter gives you tasks to complete such as chaining 2 combos or eliminating 5 Puyos at a time. While both are good modes to add, they lack the addiction factor that good puzzle modes have. Although it is nice to have something that you simply play to get away from the core game, Endless Mode is far from something that you buy the title for.

   While it is great to finally see a Puyo title released under its own name in English-speaking territories, it would have been much more welcome if Sega would have balanced the single-player mode more. As it stands, the game is good if you are going to regularly have friends to play it with, or if you are insanely skilled at Puyo Puyo to begin with. Those who aren't either won't be missing anything by looking elsewhere.

Review by J.T. Kauffman, GIA.
Puyo Puyo
Developer SonicTeam
Publisher Sega
Genre Puzzle
Medium Cartridge
Platform Game Boy Advance
Release Date  10.18.01
 1Q 2002
3 screenshots
US box art