IGN Review of Puzzle Guzzle
Puzzle Guzzle should be commended for having a neat name and fun concept, but puzzle fans looking for a little portable brain-bending action should approach Irem's recent endeavor with a touch of caution. While I generally had a good time playing this one, Puzzle Guzzle has a number of issues that prevent it from reaching its full potential. And yet, at just around twenty dollars, there's definitely a sense of appeal to note.
For those of you unfamiliar with publisher Agetec's PSP puzzler, Puzzle Guzzle offers a slight variation on the standard "blocks falling from above" concept made famous by previous puzzle games. The draw with Puzzle Guzzle comes from the manner in which you clear the blocks, which is of course the overriding goal embedded in the gameplay. Each block/unit on the board (all square in shape) have patterns on them which are usually triangular.
In order to clear these blocks, you need to line up the patterns in such a way as to create a highlighted polygon -- generally rectangular -- which will pulse and disappear. As complex as it may sound in words, seeing the game in motion is the best way to understand your primary objective.
Your control over the board is very straightforward: move your cursor around with either the d-pad or analog nub and rotate the selected block/unit with Circle, X or the triggers. Like most puzzle games, Puzzle Guzzle highlights simplicity above all else, which is commendable.
The actual structure of the game as a whole is also relatively simple, though there is a fair amount of content to dissect when you get the game running. Obviously you have your standard single-player and multiplayer modes to try out, but there are a number of extras on the UMD, including a handful of statistics and tracking information as well as a fortune teller based on your astrological sign. The daily fortune mode, as far as we can tell, has no effect on the game proper and is just there for kicks. Odd perhaps, but charming nonetheless.
Jumping into a single-player game gives you three main options: playing Drop Puzzle, Stuffit Puzzle and Quiz Puzzle. Drop Puzzle most resembles classic puzzle games because blocks fall onto the board and must be eliminated as efficiently as possible or else your field will fill up and the game ends. On the other hand, Stuffit Puzzle always keeps the board filled to the brim and you have a limited amount of time to clear as many blocks as you can in order to snag the highest possible score. Lastly, Quiz Puzzle has a prearranged sequence of blocks displayed on the board and you must clear them in a set number of "turns."
The first two modes can be played either alone or against a computer-controlled opponent or "mascot." As you progress through the collection of mascots (which are all just cute faces on different shapes), winning the match will let you choose particular items or physical features from them to use on your own mascot, giving the game a slight degree of customization. You can even take the special attacks that they have, which dictate what sorts of nasty things happen to your opponent when you properly clear blocks.
For the most part, all these various modes function fine. The controls are responsive and the game's challenge level rises fairly as you proceed through the mascot ranks. Because I don't like to be rushed during head-scratchers, I found the Quiz Puzzles to be especially enjoyable. There's no time limit and you're not challenging anyone -- all you need to do is calculate your moves and rotate all the blocks carefully. Fortunately, there are a ton of quiz puzzles available and you can even make your own and trade them with friends. Furthermore, you can download additional quiz puzzles (and new background themes for the game, which are aesthetic in nature) from the game's website, which is linked on the main menu.
As for multiplayer, the game delivers exactly what you'd expect: wireless matches through game sharing and ad hoc. However, there was a surprising amount of slowdown present during our play sessions, though it didn't necessarily break the experience.
Ultimately, Puzzle Guzzle does a few things right but it still contains some serious issues. As simple as the gameplay is, it's not as intuitive as other puzzle games out there. I had a hard time getting into Puzzle Guzzle. Personal preference will obviously play a large role here, but creating polygons with triangular patterns wasn't working too well for me. This hurts Puzzle Guzzle the most.
Also troubling is the game's presentation: it's bland. The music is extremely repetitive and Puzzle Guzzle's visuals won't dazzle you. I kept thinking of how completely marvelous Lumines is when it graced the PSP, and Puzzle Guzzle just doesn't reach that same level of quality, not only in terms of gameplay but presentation as well.
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