|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Jaleco/Keys Factory||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: NIS America||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May 19, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Robert VerBruggen
Its time for game makers to face it: DS-owning puzzle fans are getting sick of swapping tiles, matching three, and watching blocks shift and fall. Its time for something new.
Publisher NIS, best known for its tactical RPG Disgaea, provides just that with the new Puchi Puchi Virus. The game features an original and ingenious new puzzle system, a pleasant-to-look-at art style, and an amusing cast of characters. Its a ton of fun to play, even though it gets repetitive and the difficulty can be a little extreme.
The game board is a grid of hexagons, into which viruses (or virii, as the game incorrectly calls them) of various colors spawn. Touching a virus locks it, and touching two more of the same color creates a triangle. Then, touching any of the three locked viruses pops the triangle, getting rid of the three viruses and earning you points. The viruses stand still at the beginning of a puzzle, but start moving part-way through.
There are four major features that build on this simple formula. The first is that when you create a triangle, it locks all the viruses contained within the three sides. Therefore, if there are three or more same-colored viruses within the triangle, they will form another triangle, and popping the original triangle will pop the internal match as well, creating a two-chain. Also, if there are only one or two viruses of a given color inside the triangle, you can match them to viruses outside the triangle (by simply selecting those outside viruses). Using this latter method, and then matching still more outside viruses to the viruses locked in the new triangle, you can create longer chains.
The second feature is congealment. When you let a virus sit too long without using it, or if you lock a virus or triangle and fail to pop it quickly, it will turn hard and unusable. The only way to de-congeal a virus is to make and pop a triangle around it. If the whole screen gets congealed, you lose.
Feature three is the bar that appears on the left side of the screen. Whenever you pop a triangle that does not chain with other triangles, the bar rises a little. As the bar gets higher, viruses calcify faster. The only way to bring the bar down is to create chains; the longer the better.
The final feature of the puzzle system is a pill. For each of the 50 triangles you pop in a given puzzle, you receive (and then power up) this pill; you can tap it with the stylus to use it. Depending on how powerful the pill has become, it will revive a certain proportion of the congealed viruses. This is an invaluable tool in the later levels.
All of this is presented in a simple, colorful, kid-friendly anime art style. The game is certainly no graphics showcase, but its clear that the designers paid close attention to the way the interface, viruses, and characters look. Youll never confuse one type of virus for another, and visually, the game is a consistent, cohesive whole.