Thursday, January 05, 2012

Five favorites: portable puzzlers

Why is that portable systems and puzzle games go together like peanut butter and jelly? Regardless of the reason, that's how it's been--for me, at least--since 1989, when the one-two punch of the GameBoy and Tetris were unleashed upon the world.

Despite the number of portable puzzlers that have flooded the market since then, I had a relatively hard time coming up with the following list. That's not to suggest any of the games below aren't really "favorites" of mine; rather, it's to suggest that, surprisingly, I just couldn't think of many others that could take their place. (Two that did come to mind but didn't quite make the cut: Orbital for the GameBoy Advance and the Professor Layton series for the DS and 3DS.)

So, which portable puzzlers impressed me enough to not only be remembered but be included in this post? I thought you'd never ask. Read on to find out.


1. ChuChu Rocket! (Sega, 2001)--Would I rather play the graphically superior Dreamcast version of this Sonic Team-developed game than this GameBoy Advance version, if given a choice? Probably, but this pixelated port is nothing to sneeze at. Both versions feature basically the same gameplay, after all, and both feature a slew of options. As such, I highly suggest every puzzler fan out there do what I've done: Get 'em both.


2. Guru Logi Champ (Compile, 2001)--If you like Picross, you'll probably like this import-only oddity, produced by the folks at Compile (makers of the Puyo Puyo games). And if you don't like Picross? You'll still probably like it, thanks to its wacky graphics, music and, most importantly, sense of humor. Unfortunately, this GameBoy Advance title isn't all that easy to come by these days, so your best bet is to download a ROM and play it via emulation. My advice: Give your morals a rest and do just that.


3. Magical Puzzle Popils (Tengen, 1991)--A whimsical, single-screen puzzler--made by Fukio Mitsuji, the man behind both Bubble Bobble and Rainbow Islands--for the Sega Game Gear that tasks players with making their way from the start of each stage to the red-haired princess at its end in as few steps as possible. Believe me, it's harder than it sounds.


4. Tetris (Nintendo, 1989 and 2006)--The original, bare-bones version of Tetris, released alongside the GameBoy more than 20 years ago, will always have a place in my heart. That alone earns it a spot on this list--or at least a brief mention. Nintendo's crack team of designers and programmers outdid themselves, though, when they made and released the magnificent, multi-mode Tetris DS in 2006. Here's hoping they attempt to top that effort on the 3DS at some point.


5. Zooo/Zoo Keeper (Ignition, 2003 and 2004)--On the surface, this game--called Zooo on the GameBoy Advance and Zoo Keeper on the DS, for some weird reason--is little more than a Bejeweled clone wrapped up in cute, animal-patterened paper. There are some differences, though--such as the ability to switch tiles while a move is in progress--that help set Zooo/Zoo Keeper apart. Plus, the bizarre story mode is way more enjoyable than it has any right to be. Note: I prefer Zooo to Zoo Keeper, as the former is quite a bit more difficult than the latter.

See also: Previous 'five favorites' posts

17 comments:

Retr0gamer said...

Nice list of puzzles games there. Handheld gaming is really suited to puzzle games. I really like the NeoGeo Pocket games Puzzle Bobble, Puyo Pop and Magical Drop. There's also Baku Baku Animal on the Game Gear. My current addiction though is picross on the DS!

Viewtiful_Justin said...

I had the privilege of playing Chu Chu Rocket on the Dreamcast thanks to a friend of mine. It's amazing! We played it for probably three or four hours...crazy. Such a great game.

Bryan Ochalla said...

Hey there, Retr0gamer! Ah, the NeoGeo Pocket. I may have included some of those games if I'd ever played any of them :( As it is, I've never even seen a NeoGeo Pocket, let alone owned or played one.

As for Picross: I really like the game, but I can't say it's one of my favorites--probably because after a short while it hurts my brain :)

Bryan Ochalla said...

Justin: Yes, ChuChu Rocket's definitely a great little game. I haven't played the DC version in quite some time. May have to pull it out of the drawer (along with my DC) and give it a go soon :)

coolpowers said...

As soon as I saw your tweet I knew I'd find Guru Logi Champ :D

Cave's Uo Poko would work brilliantly as a mobile game. If they never port it, I'm working on a game that is.. heavily inspired by it.

coolpowers said...

And yeah, I wish I'd picked up an NGP when they were going cheap a while ago. There was a mini nerd rush to buy up the remaining stock, I recall.

coolpowers said...

Also! (I really should think all my thoughts before hitting post) I have to give Chu Chu Rocket another try. I've never been able to get into it.

/me goes to install it on his iPhone.

Bryan Ochalla said...

Ha! I love that I've become predictable RE: Guru Logi Champ. I've probably become just as predictable RE: Magical Puzzle Popils :P

Anyway, I've never heard of Uo Poko. Will go look up vids of it now...

Bryan Ochalla said...

Oh, and as for the NGP: I only have an inkling of interest in it myself, so I probably won't pick up one anytime soon. I'd much rather own a Wonder Swan or some variation of that system -- or a Game Gear :)

As for giving ChuChu Rocket! another try: Yes, do. It does take a while to get into, if you ask me, so be patient. That said, it's possible it's just not your thing!

Motherplayer said...

Puyo Puyo is one of my favorites along with bust-a-move.

Bryan Ochalla said...

Ah, yes, I like Puyo Puyo quite a bit, too, Motherplayer, although I completely suck at it :( I'm also just starting to get into Bust-a-Move/Puzzle Bobble. I have a feeling that series will become a favorite of mine eventually.

coolpowers said...

Yes, I like the battle puzzlers like PuyoPuyo, but I too am terrible at them. All of them.

Bryan Ochalla said...

It's good to know I'm not alone, coolpowers! For me, there's just something about battle puzzlers like Puyo Puyo that completely unnerve me. I get so flustered that I usually end up losing, especially when I take on computer-controlled opponents. Still, I can't help but like the idea of them :)

Retr0gamer said...

@coolpowers, recently got into Neo Geo Pocket collecting and it was one of the most affordable consoles to collect. The console was cheap, ebay sellers do great bundles and nobody is really bidding on the games. Managed to get every game I wanted on the system in a few weeks. Unless you want all your games boxed or go for the PAL boxes then it's fine.

Bryan Ochalla said...

Thanks for the info, Retr0gamer! I know you were aiming your response at coolpowers, but I thought I'd chime in, too, since I'm kinda-sorta interested in NGP, too.

dste said...

One of the funniest things I've ever seen was seeing five drunk guys and a sober guy (myself), trying to play Chu Chu Rocket on the Dreamcast at 3am after going out clubbing.

We went back to a mates house and for some reason someone said "Let's all play CCR". So we did, well we attempted to anyway.

Bryan Ochalla said...

Ha! I hope you ended up winning, dste -- given that you were sober :) I can't imagine playing this game drunk, by the way. I have a hard enough time playing when I'm sober!