Review by Radical Edward 116

Reviewed: 06/25/07

Move over Meteos - the DS has a new puzzle king

As anyone who walks into their local game shop can tell you, the DS has its fair share of puzzle games. The DS puzzle game connoisseur can choose anything from Sudoku and crossword puzzles, to Polarium and Picross. However, Planet Puzzle League, or Panel de Pon DS as it’s known in Japan, manages to stand out from its peers, and joins Meteos and Tetris DS as one of the best DS puzzlers out there.

Planet Puzzle League is the next incarnation of the classic puzzle formula first seen in America as Tetris Attack on the SNES. Using either the stylus or buttons, you must move different colored blocks left and right around scrolling columns. If you match up three or more of the same color, they disappear. Advanced players can earn more points by creating combos and bigger chains. If the blocks reach the top of the screen, you lose. It’s simple to learn, but difficult to master – and incredibly addicting.

The game offers a remarkable amount of single and multiplayer modes. For the lone gamer there’s the classic Endless mode, the frustrating Garbage mode, Clear mode, VS. Computer mode, Puzzle mode, and much, much more. Many modes even have sub-modes within them. For example, in Puzzle mode, you can choose from Active puzzles, Beginner and Advanced normal puzzles, or a Mission mode. The game also has a Daily Play feature that tracks your progress each day you play. The only mode I really found myself missing was the clever 3-D mode from Pokemon Puzzle League. Even without it though, there’s more than enough of them.

On the multiplayer side of things, PPL offers both regular wireless play and WiFi play against opponents worldwide. Oddly enough, the game only keeps track of your WiFi wins and losses if you play on Birthday mode – a mode that allows you to challenge anyone that has the same birthday as you. This could be frustrating for people who like to keep records because its often difficult to find opponents that share your birthday, and the worldwide rankings get reset at the end of every week anyway. However, if you just want to play, there’s a normal free play mode as well.

Many of the modes allow you to customize how you play them. Aside from adjusting difficulty levels, the entire game can be played either vertically, a la Brain Age, or horizontally. Also, for the first time in the series you can use items in the Vs. modes. However, while they’re a novelty at first, you soon realize that the items are pretty cheap. I imagine more advanced players will likely not want to play with them. Either way, the sheer amount of ways to play ensures that this game will have a place in your DS for weeks to come.

While the previous American Panel de Pon games, Tetris Attack and Pokemon Puzzle League, used Nintendo characters to liven up the visuals, PPL eschews them in favor of highly stylized, artistic themes that look great. Each theme has its own little animations that flit by in the background, but don’t distract you from the game itself. My favorite board has a Japanese backdrop, complete with sumi ink flowers that blossom while you play. Overall, the game is wonderfully colorful and beautiful to look at.

However, one of the strongest attributes of the game is its music. The game has an incredible soundtrack, featuring techno and trance style music that you’ll often find yourself bobbing your head to. Thankfully, the game has a menu where you can listen to all the tracks whenever you want.

I cannot recommend Planet Puzzle League enough to anyone looking for a new DS game, puzzle or otherwise. The addictive gameplay and incredible music will suck you in, while the numerous modes and WiFi play will you keep you coming back for more. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a high score to beat.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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