The Puzzle League or “Panel de Pon” series as it is known in Japan is one of the lesser-known Nintendo flagship gaming series. Over the years the game has appeared under various guises coupling well-known characters from both Pokémon and the Super Mario titles. “Planet Puzzle League,” released in 2007 for the Nintendo DS, is arguably the first game in the series to be released in the West without any gimmicks or “support franchises” attached to the game. The game was well received overall by critics who praised the game’s simple yet intuitive gameplay and excellent online capabilities.
This DSiWare release offers a scaled down, cheaper alternative to the original game. In short, the game pretty much does what it says on the tin – it offers much of the same gameplay, but lacks the online multiplayer mode and instead has only Vs. CPU gameplay available.
For those unaware, the object of the game is to slide blocks using the touchscreen into rows of three or more of the same colour in order to clear rows and thus increase your score. Although seemingly simple at higher levels, this can be quite challenging. In order to get a high score combos are needed, which can only be achieved by lining up blocks that will cause other blocks of the same colour to align, thus clearing multiple rows.
Puzzle League has four available modes of gameplay available: Vs. Com, Score Attack, Endless and Clear. Vs.Com is pretty self-explanatory and has the player facing off against an in-game opponent. By making combos the player can send “garbage” to their opponent and hinder their row clearing progress. Vs.Com is available in three difficulties, each with ten stages and optional items can be activated which add another level of depth to the gameplay.
Score attack challenges the player to earn as high a score as possible in 2 minutes using combos and chains to up their score. Once again there are three levels of difficulty to choose from. Endless is as it suggests, endless. The game continues on until the player is wiped out. Finally, Clear features a more traditional puzzle layout and challenges the player to move through progressively more difficult levels.
Like the original release, the game can be played vertically and horizontally, though horizontal play is most definitely the best suited to the game. Overall there is a fair amount of content for a scaled down version of a game released two years ago. However, much of the praise given to the original game focused on the online capabilities of the title, so it is arguable that much of what set the game aside from others in the same genre has since been lost. On the other hand, the game is a quarter of the price of the original and indeed is perhaps best suited to quick bursts of play rather than lengthy sessions. For those that have played the original it is worth mentioning that the DSiWare iteration of the game also lacks the Daily Play mode present in the original game (Daily Play offers a time attack challenges available once a day and the player’s progress is recorded in a graph).
Overall this stripped down DSiWare version of Puzzle League is a pretty solid puzzler with clear and concise gameplay. There is a fair amount to keep avid puzzlers busy and for the price tag the game really is a bargain. It’s a pity that the game lacks the multiplayer action of the original, but then for only 500 Nintendo points, the game is still a steal. For owners of the original game, there is absolutely nothing new here and it really wouldn’t be worth a purchase unless you just absolutely don’t want to carry the cartridge around to play. For those without the original game and in need of a good puzzler this is a pretty safe purchase.