Though Dr. Mario has already been sold as an NES emulated version last year, and Panel de Pon was given out as a free downloadable game in a Japan-only puzzle collection release on the GameCube, Nintendo has decided to pair up these classic games in a single cartridge. Though the novelty of getting something new never surfaces in Dr. Mario & Puzzle League for the Game Boy Advance, the fact that you're getting two solid versions of two successful puzzle games is enough to recommend the package.
Dr. Mario is the headliner of this dual pack of games, but only because he's the only recognizable character in this small batch of games. Players rotate colored capsules in play, matching four or more like colors together in order to make them disappear. The task is to remove viruses in the bin; there are three different ones, each with its own color. The pills' colors correspond with the colors of the viruses, so matching up the color pills on top and to the side of them will take them out of the picture. Wipe out all the virus in play, and you'll move onto the next challenge, with even more bugs to deal with. The version of Dr. Mario isn't a repackaging of the NES version from last year. Instead, Intelligent Systems built a new version of the game with improved visuals and audio, and added a beefier presentation with a puzzle mode as well as a Vs. mode against the computer.
Puzzle League is a GBA rendition of Panel de Pon, a game that's best known as Pokemon Puzzle League on the Nintendo 64, and Pokemon Puzzle Challenge on the Game Boy Color. it's the player's task to continuously eliminate tiles in a rising stack by switching two tiles' positions on the horizontal row. When three or more tiles link up in a up/down or left/right fashion, they disappear. Gravity kicks in and settles the rest of the tiles into the bin; this can cause a chain reaction to occur since other blocks of the same color can fall into place next to each other. It's up to you to continuously work the bin to wipe out tiles by making combination connections and chain reactions.
Puzzle League, however, is essentially the game Intelligent Systems created for the downloadable GBA version in Nintendo Puzzle Collection. The plus side is that, now that it's on a cartridge, the stats earned in the game can now be saved to the SRAM for future bragging. The GBA version of Puzzle League is very a very thorough edition of the game, and retains its enormous addictiveness. It's just cut and dry this time around: the company doesn't brand it with familiar characters as it did with previous versions, instead letting the game design speak for itself just as the classic Tetris did those many years before.
As fun and addictive as both of these games still are, and as well as they still fit the quick-shot aspect of the portable scene, what's disappointing about this cart is the sheer laziness of putting it on the Game Boy Advance. Apart from the strategy in Nintendo of America's Classic NES Series, the company usually backs its GBA releases with a thorough production. But in this case, Dr. Mario & Puzzle League puts Nintendo on the same level as many GBA publishers, throwing two games onto a cartridge with very little effort. At least Nintendo threw in cartridge SRAM and allows two players with only one copy of the game.
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