Tetris Attack – Game Boy
Platform: Game Boy
Release Date (NA): August 1996
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Nerd Rating: 6 out of 10
Believe it or not, I found this game completely by accident. At the time, I was on a huge Tetris binge, playing any Tetris-related game I could get my hands on, when I started picking through the Game Boy Tetris titles. Believe it or not, there’s actually quite a few, but only Tetris on the Game Boy and Tetris DX on the Game Boy Color are actually Tetris games. This title, Tetris Attack, for instance, is actually part of the Panel de Pon series.
If you’ve never heard of Panel de Pon, you may recognize its localized title; Puzzle League, especially if you’ve heard of the Nintendo 64 game, Pokemon Puzzle League. I was a complete beast at the later game as a child, so finding a handheld game from the same series by accident was like finding gold. And better yet, finding one set on Yoshi’s Island.
To those uninitiated in the goodness that is the Puzzle League series, it’s a pretty simple matching tile game. Tiles with different shapes will begin to rise from the bottom of the screen, and your goal is to arrange them in vertical or horizontal matches of three or more. Once you’ve created a match, the game gives you a short period of time to match more tiles to create a long-running combo. The game also allows you to speed things up by giving you the option to speed up the tile-raising whenever you want. However, if your stack reaches the top, it’s game over. Win conditions depend upon the mode. In VS mode, you win when your opponent’s health bar completely fills. In Stage Clear and Puzzle modes, you win when you’ve cleared the entire stage of tiles.
In fact, Panel de Pon is one of those puzzle series that really has something for everyone; from the beginner to the obsessive champion. It’s easy enough for beginners to start with the simple “match three” focus, but offers a great challenge for those interested in trying to quickly whip together giant combos. However, no Panel de pon game can ever truly be completed until you beat it on the highest difficulty, because every game’s final bosses are difficulty-locked.
In Tetris Attack, you play as Yoshi, who is attempting to save his friends who have been cursed and turned against him. The game is split into stages, with Yoshi battling against a different cursed friend in typical versus-mode fashion. If Yoshi wins, said defeated friend joins Yoshi’s party as what later becomes the equivalent of an extra life. After getting through eight rounds of regular battles, Yoshi then finally reaches the final three boss rounds. Depending on which difficulty you play on, you may only fight against Naval Piranha, or the entire trio of Naval Piranha, Kappa, and Bowser, which nets you the real ending.
While Tetris Attack’s story mode is pretty light, the game makes up for it by included numerous other modes, similar to other puzzle series and Panel de Pon games of the time. In addition to the VS mode (essentially story mode) you have Endless, Time Trial, Stage Clear, and Puzzle modes. All of these modes are exactly what you’d find in every other puzzle game, so there’s nothing particularly unique there, but it does give the player a good bit to do after beating Super Hard mode.
Obviously, Tetris Attack looks nowhere near as colorful and pretty as its Super Nintendo counterpart, but this is pretty typical with handheld games….at least early handheld games. Personally, I found Pokemon Puzzle Challenge for the Game Boy Color to be much better than its Nintendo 64 counterpart, but that might be more because I absolutely hate the Pokemon anime than anything else.
So what I’m going to say now might sound a little redundant if you’ve read my previous review of Puzzle Bobble Mini, but it still rings true. Handheld versions of games, especially puzzle games, might not contain all the glitz and glamor of their console counterparts, but it’s a sacrifice that has to be made to present the same addictive gameplay experience on a smaller device.
Tetris Attack does exactly what it was created to do and nothing else. There’s nothing especially fantastic about it, nor is there anything particularly awful. It’s Panel de Pon whenever, wherever I want it, and that’s all it has to be.
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