Review: Pop Them, Drop Them SameGame (WiiWare)

Is Hudson’s puzzler a worthy purchase or just more of the same?

SameGame is a bit of an unusual one. It was first created way back in 1985, but was never really all that popular. Nevertheless, it went on to spawn a large number of clones and remakes over the years, with Hudson’s effort being the latest.

The basic concept of SameGame is quite simple. You are presented with a large grid filled with blocks of varying colours. Your job is to eliminate every single one of these blocks by matching them up with other blocks of the same colour. The catch is that you can’t actually move any blocks yourself; the only way to move them is by selecting an already existing group of similarly coloured blocks and making them disappear, dropping all blocks above down a number of spaces. The larger a group is when you make it vanish, the more points you get.

As you can imagine clearing the whole screen is quite a task. It’s very easy to be left with just one block of a certain colour, meaning there’s no way to make it disappear, because the minimum number of blocks you need to destroy a group is two. When you’re left with no more possible moves, you instantly lose. If you clear everything, the game doesn’t end: the screen will be completely refilled. This, of course, goes on until you fail to clear a screen.

Thankfully Hudson has done away with some of the more annoying issues in the original SameGame. Originally, if you created a large space between two parts of the grid, meaning you had two separate groups of blocks, there was no way to get them together again. In Pop Them, Drop Them, however, creating a space between two sections will automatically cause one of the sections to slide towards the other, eliminating the need to constantly be careful not to separate parts.

Hudson has also added some much-needed customization to the game. The original had only a dull green background with single-colour squares in front of it. You can now select from five different backgrounds, six different songs, and seven different block shapes (including Bomberman heads!). You can also customize the gameplay quite a bit, because you’re able to change the size of the grid and how many differently coloured blocks there are (3-5).

There are also some totally new features. The first of these is entirely optional and matches up perfectly with the Bomberman head-shaped blocks – Bombs! If you turn these on, each grid will start out with a number of bombs, which, when selected, will destroy a certain number of blocks around them. If you can link together multiple bombs, their blast radius will increase, meaning they can easily take out a group of unmatchable blocks.

The other new feature is a very welcome one: at any time during gameplay, you can hit the 1 button to undo any of your previous moves. Although this sort of defeats the purpose of being left with no possible moves (since you can simply undo moves if you think you’re not going to make it) it makes the game a lot less frustrating.

Including only a single player mode would of course make the game’s value a bit dubious, so Hudson has also included multiplayer options, which offer some fresh spins on SameGame. There are three different multiplayer modes. The first, Fame Game, is a simple battle with up to four players, each with their own grid, and whoever can score the most points wins. Shame Game totally switches things around: your objective is not to score as many points as possible, but as few points as possible! Obviously the best way to go about doing this is clearing nothing but two-block groups, but you’ll find that that’s almost impossible to do. If you manage to clear the whole screen you’ll actually lose some points to lower your score ever further, but if you run out of moves all remaining blocks will increase your score! Blame Game is a lot more frantic, because all four players compete on a single grid to score the most points. If you try to clear a block that can’t be cleared (for example, when all four players try to clear the same block at the same time) you’ll lose points, meaning it’s mostly a test to see who’s the fastest.

Sadly, Pop Them, Drop Them does not feature any online support for multiplayer. Given that the game only costs a paltry 500 Wii points it is hard to begrudge this, but it would have been a very welcome addition to what is otherwise a very complete game.

Conclusion

Pop Them, Drop Them SameGame is quite an attractive package on the whole. The game oozes with the usual Hudson quality and the asking price is not going to break the bank. For those who are struggling with spare space on the Wii, it will come as good news to hear the game fits into a tiny 46 blocks. SameGame is deceptively simple and one of the most incredibly addictive puzzle games ever. Hudson has done an excellent job of bringing the classic game up to date for WiiWare. Solo players might tire of the gameplay after a short while, but for multiplayer it is a very attractive proposition. Hudson’s track record of delivering quality WiiWare games is upheld once again with this fun bargain puzzler.