We’re enjoying a bit of a puzzle game renaissance at the moment.
While we’re not quite at the same level as we were in the 8-, 16- and 32-bit eras, where puzzle games would happily share retail shelf space with 100+ hour RPG epics (Puyo Puyo Tetris aside), we are at least starting to see more and more puzzle games that aren’t free-to-play mobile titles primarily designed to repeatedly part you from your cash rather than providing a well-balanced, fun experience.
One interesting game that may well have passed you by owing to its low price and seemingly low production values is Hell Girls from Taiwanese circle SakuraGame. And you should most definitely give it a look!
Continue reading Puzzler Essentials: Hell Girls
Have you heard the tale of FromSoftware, dear reader? Legend has it that long ago, in the dim and distant past, these renowned scribes were more than just “the people who made Souls games”.
Joking aside, the company’s past output is quite a bit more diverse than you might expect if you only became aware of it in the last couple of console generations. In particular, the first two PlayStation eras represented FromSoftware at its most experimental, with its games running the gamut from Souls’ spiritual predecessor King’s Field to mech sim series Armored Core.
Perhaps the most surprising of FromSoftware’s games from this era, though, given their present reputation for “dark and moody”, is a rather peculiar PlayStation 2 game released in Japan and Europe as Kuri Kuri Mix, and The Adventures of Cookie and Cream in the States.
Continue reading PS2 Essentials: Kuri Kuri Mix
Today’s puzzle game of choice is one that there is, unfortunately, no real easy way to get hold of legally any more, but it holds extremely fond memories for me regardless.
The game in question is Sega’s Baku Baku Animal, which I first came into contact with back in 1997 when I was doing my Year 10 work experience at PC Zone magazine in London. This was an era when Sega was just starting to experiment with PC ports of its popular arcade games, with varying results.
Baku Baku Animal was one of this initial batch and, like the CD-ROM version of Puzzle Bobble (featuring full Redbook audio!), which had also come into the office around the same time, managed to bring much of the office to a standstill for quite a while, even dragging the most hardcore Quake-heads away from their daily deathmatches for a while.
Continue reading Puzzler Essentials: Baku Baku Animal
Although the abstract nature of the puzzle game genre makes it theoretically possible to make a game out of pretty much anything, we tend to see a lot of the same sort of thing.
In particular, over the years, we’ve seen a lot of “match dropping things so that their colours match”, “swap things around to make lines of three like-coloured doohickies” and “shoot bubbles at precarious arrangements to make groups of three like-coloured blobs”. As such, it’s always rather pleasing to come across a game that does something a little different from one of these common conventions favoured by the most popular titles in the genre.
Starsweep, a game that originated in Japanese arcades and was subsequently ported to PlayStation and Game Boy, is just the ticket to refresh the jaded puzzle fan.
Continue reading Puzzler Essentials: Starsweep
HuniePop from Ryan Koons’ studio HuniePot was partly developed as a sort of “protest” game: an attempt to fight back against the growing trend of political correctness that was starting to take root in the games industry.
There was clearly demand for such a game, even back in late 2013; a successful Kickstarter campaign allowed those who were similarly frustrated with the situation to put their money where their mouth was and show their support for the kind of thing they wanted to see more of: something lewd, crude and rude — and unashamed of being any of those things.
The remarkable thing about HuniePop was that it ended up being a damn good game as well as a resounding middle finger to the “everything is problematic” crowd. Not only that, it also demonstrated that independent Western developers were more than capable of putting interesting new twists on Japanese-style aesthetics by combining anime-style artwork with a hilariously abrasive and distinctively modern, American script.
Continue reading Puzzler Essentials: HuniePop
Puyo Puyo Tetris is cause for great celebration, particularly for those of us who have been missing certain aspects of “the good old days” of gaming, whenever those might have been in your personal opinion.
Why is it noteworthy? Well, numerous reasons: it’s one of the few Puyo Puyo titles to have made it West without significant modifications or complete rebranding; it’s a reinterpretation of Tetris that doesn’t suck (EA and Ubisoft, pay attention); and perhaps most importantly, it’s a standalone puzzle game that not only isn’t a microtransaction-riddled, play-throttling mobile phone game with infuriating touch controls, it also got an actual, honest-to-goodness physical release. In fact, in the case of the PlayStation 4 version, the physical release is, oddly, the only way to get hold of a copy.
It’s also an absolutely cracking game, so let’s take a closer look at what it offers to puzzler aficionados.
Continue reading Puzzler Essentials: Puyo Puyo Tetris
Multiplayer online shooters are notorious for being incredibly popular, but not particularly welcoming to newcomers.
Doubtless most of you reading have experienced at least one occasion where, while attempting to learn a new game, you were berated for being a “noob”, or utterly dominated by an experienced player taking advantage of the “fresh meat” on the map. With determination, you can push beyond this, of course, but it’s not something that everybody finds particularly palatable or fun.
Which is why Splatoon is such a wonderful piece of game design from Nintendo. By shifting the focus away from attacking other players directly while simultaneously removing the most common ways for people to be jerks to one another — i.e. voice and text chat — it created one of the most accessible, enjoyable takes on the multiplayer shooter ever created, and a game that even people who typically dislike multiplayer shooters can enjoy.
Continue reading Wii U Essentials: Splatoon