When Tetris Attacks!
I don't get it. Most things in the world make sense. The sky is blue. Water is refreshing. Put a monkey in anything, and it'll be funny. But Pokemon? Huh? Maybe those of you who really get it can help me out.
You've got this world of talking animals. And this world is filled with people who have nothing else to do but catch and train them. All these kids running around catching animals. Don't they have school or something? Aren't there laws against capturing feral animals? And what the heck is Mr. Mime? And another thing, if these Pokemon are supposed to be marketable, why are some of them so butt ugly?
I don't know what's worse - nonsense or unoriginalty. Pokemon Puzzle League captures the essence of both, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Pokemon Puzzle League is identical to Tetris Attack, a sleeper for the SNES which had nothing to do with Tetris and everything to do with "Attack." The game had just the right mix of skill, speed and random luck to make it work. It ranks pretty high up there behind Puzzle Fighter for the PSX and the original Tetris. Back then, the graphic backdrops and sound effects were from Super Mario World 2 - baby Mario, Yoshi, and a mess of bad guys. The crayon style artwork of SMW2 gave it just the right amount of color and cuteness. Get it too cute and colorful, and you'll induce vomit. And now there's Pokemon Puzzle League.
The playing field is a well of multi colored blocks that steadily flow upwards. You are given a two-spaced cursor that you use to alternate two blocks horizontally. Connecting 3 or more blocks together clears them away. This gives way to chains and combos to complete, where the better your skill, the more junk squares you'll be able to attack your opponent with.
There really isn't much of a story. Professor Oak gives whiny little Ash Kethum a call about the upcoming Pokemon Puzzle Leagues. Eager to hone his Pokemon skills to the max, Ash bolts off to the Pokemon Puzzle League Village (formerly known as Compton, I think) where he can compete in a wide assortment of puzzles and challenges. Makes perfect sense, if your name is Donglegator or Freakisaurus or something.
With the infusion of Pokemon, you'll find graphics and music straight from the TV show. They've even managed to cram some video onto that little cartridge. While the graphics and music aren't even remotely cutting edge, it's adequate for a puzzle game. The cute and colorful factor will make you Pokemon crack-heads very happy. But to everyone else, it'll scare the bejezzus outta you. They're all mutants, I tell you!
The single player story mode has you competing against other trainers from the cartoon. Win the match to proceed, and you'll also win a shiny little badge. Work your way through all the trainers and make it to the elite 4 and you'll be a Pokemon Master. Be the pride of your family! The envy of friends and colleagues alike! You'll be the Poke..um...bomb!
Normal mode is a cinch, but Hard mode provides the right amount of challenge to force you into making strategic moves rather than the faster, direct moves. And then there's the Very Hard mode... a fun, frustrating challenge, as it should be.
Supposedly, Team Rocket has stolen all the Pokemon and by taking on their challenge, you'll win back all those Pokemon. This mode sets a white line within the wall of colored blocks. Once you clear all your colored blocks up to that line, you win the stage. Sure, it doesn't make sense in our logic, but in Poke-logic, I guess challenging evil villains to block puzzles is the norm.
Take away the speed side of Tetris Attack and reduce it to a pure cerebral game - that's the Puzzle Mode. Here, you are given a set number of blocks and a limited number of turns. You need to figure out the right combination to clear the screen. The more advanced levels will completely rack your mind to figure out that single correct combination for success.
The two-player matches have you pitting 3 Pokemon vs. 3 Pokemon. Are you actually fighting your Pokemon? Hell no! All it means is whoever wins 3 matches first is the big winnah. The whole Pokemon thing is purely superficial, because it's still just two-player Tetris Attack underneath. Block combinations and chains send big squares of junk blocks into your opponent's screen, making it more difficult for them to succeed.
In a weak hearted, half-assed attempt to offer something new to the whole shebang, there's a 3D mode. Don't be easily fooled, grasshopper. 3D mode just rolls the playing field into a cylinder, as if your blocks were placed around the inside of a tin can. It equates to playing with a very wide field - much too wide, in fact. The balance of the game is offset, so it becomes a pure speed game. Even when you set the speed to extremely low levels to try to rebalance things, it really isn't anything different or special.
Tetris Attack has been dipped into a big vat of melted Pokemon goo, creating a shell of backgrounds and music that's now called Pokemon Puzzle League. But don't forget that the delicious gummy core you'll get to after 3 licks is, after all, a quality game. It's just annoying that it's the same game. Those of you familiar with the original can probably do without this. But if Pokemon is your groove thing or you haven't played Tetris Attack, then this game will strangely make sense.