Review by neoalphazero

Reviewed: 01/11/03 | Updated: 01/11/03

More Naomi please...

As the Dreamcast slips toward it's twilight, the system's arcade heritage has spawned a few new home releases including this one, the 3D puzzle game Musapey's Choco Marker from developer Ecole. Right away Choco has a strike against it, as Ecole is widely known for their spectacularly bland light gun series Death Crimson on Saturn and Dreamcast. Couple this with a pastel and
baby-eyed cover that will make your stomach back up (odd given the actual disc is black with demons and street DJs adorning it) and you have a import that will be widely overlooked. A shame as this is a solid and addictive original effort.

Born as a Naomi arcade board, Choco features a pair of Koala-like creatures of the cuddly kind. In a typical one-player game your marsupial is dropped onto the playing field, a collection of various colored cubes with a special cube called ''boss'' at the center of the mess. Your creature freely walks six sides of the playfield using a block it stands upon (you lay these blocks down
with a press of a button) eliminating other blocks/rows to clear the playfield leaving only the boss block remaining. A time limit adds another layer of challenge. Eliminating blocks is simple, it's akin to a sandwich, say you have a yellow block, plop a red block at one end of the block and do the same at the other end (R,Y,R), the entire row will disappear. In addition any loose blocks hanging on that row will disappear as well. These extra blocks will add a few seconds back to the clock, quite handy. The game doesn't dictate the length of a row but the more blocks you eliminate the more your bomb gauge fills which yields a block that wipes out blocks in a set radius. Using gravity to take out multiple rows and gray blocks that have to transformed to be removed add another facet to the gameplay, elevating the simple premise into a deep game.

Choco's levels are divided into easy, normal, and expert categories, overall there are 70+ playfields. A two player mode pits players in a race to see who can complete their level first and get the highest score. The translation from arcade to Dreamcast sees few extras although a Original mode and a few sparse options are present. Original is simply the arcade mode with ''one
player trial'', a mode that let's you play any of the levels with a generous time limit so you can go at your own pace. Successful completion of these levels is marked and by completing them all...

Graphics- 8/10 Puzzle games tend to be exempt from amazing visuals, however Choco's graphics are solid. Your little creature animates well, blocks produce sparks, and the background is always bopping behind you with transparent clouds zipping by. The frame rate is smooth though big chains in two player battles can cause the game to hiccup from 60 to 30 FPS. A small note: though the backgrounds are static with no animation, I'm glad the
developers choose motifs like lava flows, city blocks, and planets instead of bright pastel surroundings.

Sound- 6/10 Sound effects work well and the music is fitting and non-obtrusive. Unfortunately there's only two tracks for the entire game, a track for arcade mode and a piano melody that plays during trial mode. With 70
stages several more tracks would have been nice. Also I grew tired of the chorus of Japanese children that breaks in during matches and at the title screen.

Gameplay- 8/10 As stated, the controls and gameplay are simple. One button lays down blocks and the triggers change the camera angle of the playfield. It takes a while to get used to the six degrees of movement in the game but patience will pay off well. Choco is a fast paced game but requires thinking. Randomly eliminating blocks may leave you with a playfield that's impossible move around easily or clear before the time limit. The game has one notable omission though, there's no option to quit or reset a game when you pause rather if you wish to quit you'll need to do a soft reset. Sloppy for a puzzle game.

Replay- 7/10 Choco is a typical bare-bones Naomi port (think Cosmic Smash) and though addictive, some may yearn for more modes.

Musapey's Choco Marker is worth checking into for the puzzle set or DC fans still looking for quality titles. It has the makings of a sleeper hit, just don't expect a extensive list of modes and options.

*-neo

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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