Neo Geo fans never had to look far when feeling the need to get on some puzzle action in order to take a break from all the fighting, thanks to many an excellent offering from Taito and Data East. But even nowadays, Gururin remains the odd puzzler out. So why did Face’s 1994 offering leave no mark in MVS history?
At its core, Gururin is a match-three puzzle with a literal twist: you can’t rotate the pairs (or trios in Single Player mode) of people who drop from the top. Instead, you use the 'A' and 'B' buttons to rotate the square box left or right 90-degrees (or just hold one button down to do a 180-degree turn) and let gravity sort the rest. Some of the initial levels give you some hints on when and where to rotate the box in order to connect people in the most efficient manner, but in later stages you will get people holding hands that effectively deny gravity - causing you some nasty blocks on your carefully laid out managing plans. Certainly a fresh concept in the genre.
There are three modes on offer: Single Player lets you sort out increasingly difficult puzzle stages on your lonesome, Story Mode allows you to fight it out against truly bizarre CPU opponents (such as a drunk squirrel) and Player Vs pits two humans matching garments as efficiently as possible in order to send garbage to the opponents screen. Nothing revolutionary, but at least all the basics are covered.
Graphics and sound are on point despite being nothing out of the ordinary, with more often than not everything feeling a bit surreal and psychedelic. We can only assume this was a purpose design choice to go along with the theme of ‘arranging people in a box’ and as such we can’t really fault the game for its simple aesthetics or nearly unnoticeable soundtrack.
However, it's in the gameplay portion that Gururin falls short. Despite the solid core concept, players will quickly get overwhelmed trying to clear space in the box for the continuous drop of colour coded dressed up people, throwing strategy out the window in favour of randomly rotating the box in hopes of some accidental clearance. This is a bit of a slap in the face for puzzle game fans who obviously play their game with strategies and future moves in mind and a glaring failure in the game design.
HAMSTER’s emulation wrapper does the usual above and beyond service to allow customisation of the whole experience by enabling access to all DIP switch options, graphic filters and the ever popular Caravan online leaderboards should you wish to test your Gururin skills against the whole world.
Gururin is proof that sometimes the best puzzle concepts are sometimes met with a harsh dose of ‘average’. Despite doing nothing technically wrong, it sadly falls short of other offerings on Neo Geo like the previously released Magical Drop series or the still stubbornly Switch absent Puzzle Bobble series. As such it is only truly recommended to the puzzle fan with nothing else to currently play or the rabid digital Neo Geo collector. Everyone else should just let this one drop.