First Impressions: Panel Renketsu 3 Minute Rocket
Posted by Sean Aaron
Pipe Mania plus Apollo Space Progam plus Sky TV?
Whilst Nintendo's Intelligent Systems development team might be better known for the Fire Emblem series, on the download front they seem to be cutting loose with a lightgun shooter on WiiWare and now a puzzle game for the DSi.
At first glance it looks like the classic puzzler Pipe Mania, but that's only because you've got some kind of fluid going through pipes embedded in a series of square panels as part of the gameplay. In fact it's a rather unique beast wherein the player is trying to link up existing pipes via the aforementioned panels in order to fuel a rocket with, uh... patches of candyfloss [that's cotton candy to our Western hemisphere chums! - Ed] that seem to be floating about in space. Your goal is to get the rocket from the starting planet to the target destination in less than three minutes (hence the title) to deliver what appears to be a satellite dish to some little green spacemen (just in time for the World Cup, no doubt.)
The control is entirely via the stylus. The rocket is visible in the top screen, whilst the platform it's sitting on and movable panels are in the touchscreen. Movable panels are clearly indicated with a light green shade. When you tap one the future orientation of the pipe section will be indicated by small translucent images of the panel that appear in the nearby spaces it can move to. Rather than sliding, the pieces actually "roll" (rotate) around other objects when you drag the stylus in the direction you want to move the panel. Panels can only be moved if there's a structure adjacent to the spot they're rolling into, requiring a bit of juggling here and there when panels start out separated from each other. By moving panels around each other you can change their orientation; trying to figure out how to get t-junctions and bends pointing in the direction you desire can definitely prove challenging in later levels!
Sometimes there's panels that are blocking the path between the candyfloss space fuel and your engines and often you'll find yourself with panels you don't need. All that's required in the main Mission Mode is to create a path from the fuel to one rocket engine, though if you can get two or three engines supplied you can fly further in each boost, saving precious time as the distances you need to traverse get greater and greater in the higher levels. You're aided by two kinds of power-ups: clocks that add to the time remaining and screws that upgrade your ship every time you collect three - just route the fuel through the icons to get the benefits. Care needs to be taken as to which engines you supply if you're only able to hook up one or two because you're limited to seven lanes of travel en route to the target world. Firing engines on one side or the other will cause your ship to move one lane in the opposite direction; go too far and your mission will end because you've gone out-of-bounds.
It's a pretty simple puzzle game, but it nevertheless has some nice polish to it. The ship looks terrific with the artistic style of a drawing from a children's book. The ship's design has the chunky look of something made in the back garden from a Wallace and Gromit film with riveted rusty panels, round glass portholes and big exhaust ports. It's one of the nicer looking DSiWare games around, accompanied by a thrilling soundtrack that evokes sci-fi films from the 50s with plenty of fanfare to send you on your way.
Whilst DSiWare is already home to a lot of great puzzles, Panel Renketsu 3 Minute Rocket is definitely one puzzle fans should consider. It looks and sounds great and for only 500 Points you get ten levels of the main Mission Mode, plus a further 100 levels in "Puzzle Mode" wherein your only goal is to complete a fuel supply line to your rocket with the least number of moves. The North American name is Link 'n' Launch and due for release soon so keep watching the skies!