Review by mikaa

Reviewed: 06/14/07 | Updated: 11/20/07

Nothing bad, with only a few tweaks from earlier versions

There are quite a few of you readers out there that probably are wondering what Planet Puzzle League is. Many of you are probably noticing how similar the basic game is to two other Nintendo releases (Pokemon Puzzle League and Pokemon Puzzle Challenge). A handful of 16-bit faithful might remember another version (Tetris Attack). Many handheld users might recall the GBA dual-game cart with Puzzle League and Dr. Mario.

Whatever version you are familiar with, the basic truth is that Planet Puzzle League is anything but original, and yet, over ten years after the release of Tetris Attack (the first version of this game to hit the US that this writer is aware of), it is still one of the more addictive puzzlers to hit the DS in recent memory.

The basics behind Planet Puzzle League are quite simple: a series of colored/shaded/styled blocks are on the touch screen, and lining them up in a set of three or more in a row, collum, or other pattern earns you points upon their elimination. Combos earn more points when the removal of a set of blocks causes more eliminations. The higher the score, the better you are.

There are variations of rules to cycle through for this: an "Endless" mode where you try to get as high a score as possible before the screen becomes filled; a "Timed" mode that forces you to get the highest score before time runs out; assorted "Goal" modes where you have to meet specific goals to win; and the "Daily" mode, where you perform up to three tasks a day to measure your skill.

To be honest, the "Endless" mode and "Daily" are the big winners here, as "Endless" can drive you to play constantly before you realize that time has flown by. "Daily" takes inspiration from Brain Age and Big Brain Academy in that you are rated as to how well you do on each task, and how you fared compared to prior scores. Where "Endless" can cause you to loose time, "Daily" drives you to improve each day, and can be fun in its own right.

So what makes this version worth a look? If you already have one, it's not much of a change over prior versions. The biggest change to the actual game engine is that you can use the touch screen in addition to the normal control set-up (note that the game defaults to the on-its-side layout of the DS (not unlike Hotel Dusk or Brain Age)). The soundtrack may or may not be an improvement over prior versions (Tetris Attack is a tough one to beat, though this release was notable for not being annoying), but graphically, the art style is quite nice. Not as creative or flashy as Lumines (PSP), but still very nice and attractive.

One noteworthy feature of this game is actually nearly useless. As the box art shows, Planet Puzzle League does support the Nintendo WFC online service. However, while you don't need to have a friend code to compete online, and you MUST have a friend code so as to chat with your opponent. It is fun to play against others online (and I was suprised to find over two people within a half-hour of playing and searching), but the chat option is almost useless. Where Metroid Prime Hunters allowed you to register "Rivals" after a match and Pokemon Diamond and Pearl kept the people you traded with, Planet Puzzle League does not allow you to do this.

Finally, both single-cart and multi-card functions exist, though the single-card is for sending a demo to another DS than playing.

In short, is this worth the US$29.99-34.99? If you are a puzzle freak and don't have a version of Puzzle League, then this is worth it. If you have a DS and need something to tide you over until Zelda DS this fall, this is not a bad way to go.

There are other puzzlers on the DS with more complex options and variations (here's looking at you, Tetris DS), but like the new DS Pokemon games, sometimes simple is not a bad thing.

Score: 9 of 10

+ Best Features: Simple to get into, touch controls, original controls kept, WFC support, Daily mode, addicting, graphic style, soundtrack that does NOT annoy, a puzzle game that is not a Sudoku clone

- Worst Features: WFC Chat features still requires Friend Code, no single-card download, about US$10 more than what it should be

* If You Liked: Tetris DS, Meteos (either the original or Disney version), Puzzle Quest (DS or PSP), the upcoming Picross DS

* Guilty Pleasure: Knowing that the Nintendo Rep that visited my work place had to know full well that by giving me a demo cart to try that I would buy this. Hey, that ten-minute limit hurt...

+ (Good) Reality: I'm starting to like the basics behind the "Touch Generations" lable (which this game does carry): simple to get into, and enjoyable to play. While I can see why hard-core gamers are turned off by games that are made for the casual gamer, games like this prove that all it takes is an addicitve game engine to sell a product.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Product Release: Planet Puzzle League (US, 06/04/07)

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