This one really snuck up on us. Seems like two or three weeks ago this wasn't even on a list anywhere and then pow, it's coming out the first week of June. The quick turnaround isn't surprising, however, as Planet Puzzle League is yet another rehash of a game better known as Tetris Attack or Pokemon Puzzle League. Odds are you've played this before, but odds are just as likely you loved every single moment you spent with it.
And so it goes with this latest version - you just won't be able to put it down. When you close your eyes to finally drift into the sweet release of sleep, you'll still see colored blocks swapping places to form groups of three or more. The blocks disappear once linked, but crafting combos is the key to victory. Connecting four of a kind starts a combo timer that, once charged, keeps the stack from rising. The rush to keep matching blocks turns into a blazing fever that you'll never overcome. Simply put, it's one of the most intense, rewarding and addicting puzzle games ever created.
Even if you're one of the millions who have already dropped money into this series, there's enough new content to make Planet a compelling purchase. For starters, there are now item blocks that cause various effects to take place on the puzzle grid. Activating an item block requires you to link it up with two other blocks of the same color. One item causes all your opponent's blocks to randomly change color, another turns some of their blocks into unusable garbage and a rather helpful one makes every single block you clear count as part of a combo chain, whether you matched up eight in a row or just three of the same color.
The new items aren't much of a plus for solo play, but Planet's biggest boon is its hypnotizing multiplayer. All those combos create tons of garbage blocks that'll launch over to your opponent's side and clutter up the place - similarly, the item blocks make life miserable for all involved except the one who triggered them. Two can hit each other up on the Wi-Fi Connection (yes, worldwide) while up to four can sling some colored bricks locally. Want more good news? Four can play locally with just one copy of the game, a very nice gesture, given that the other three will probably end up buying it anyway.
Part of the re-release is to introduce the game to a new audience. More specifically, Nintendo wants the Brain Age crowd to take notice and is hoping the "Touch Generations" branding is enough to do the job. That bright orange logo has also brought along the book-style cradling that we all loved so much in Brain Age and Hotel Dusk. If you choose to play book-style, you're going into the fray with a slightly dodgy stylus interface. Swapping blocks with a touch pen doesn't feel as quick or responsive as the standard d-pad, but the sideways view makes the monolithic puzzle grid fill the entire screen. On the other hand, holding the DS in the normal fashion and playing with the d-pad makes the graphics smaller. So it comes down to a choice - iffy, slower interface with larger visuals or a hardcore interface that's slightly harder to see?
To further link Planet with Brain Age, it has a Daily Play feature that charts your performance on a, you guessed it, daily basis. It's hardly the kind of quick gaming that made training your brain such a treat, but it's still cool to watch your skill rise and fall as the days wear on. Other bizarre traits include being able to specifically play people who share your birthday on Wi-Fi and a schizophrenic soundtrack that bounces from sexy trance to Saturday morning commercial fare.
The nutso tunes perfectly compliment the trippy backgrounds, though. Picture a consistently retro '80s mindset mixed with otherworldly animation and captivating effects. Our only complaint about the pulsating wallpapers is that there aren't more of them. Downloadable content sure would be nice right about now…