Saturday, January 13, 2007

Sonic Rush and Puyo Pop Fever - Two Player Versus

One of the great things about portable systems is that you can play them in line. Every time I line up an hour (or more) ahead of time for tickets to a movie or concert or show, I always bring my portable system. It helps kill the time and, it a friend has one, is lots of fun for you. Of course, if other people are around, they may get annoyed, but screw them - you're playing a fun game.

Anyway, this morning my friends and I got in line for the Best of Fest tickets for the Sundance Film Festival. Another friend had his DS. We were without Tetris DS or Clubhouse Games, but we both had Sonic Rush, so we decided to give that a try.

Without looking at the instructions, the only two-player game we could see was a race through the level. Since I hadn't played Sonic Rush yet (and neither had he, I believe) only the first level was available for racing. Apparently, I am quite bad at racing through a Sonic level. My friend beat me twice and then he passed the DS to another friend who soundly beat me.

The racing, and especially only on one level, didn't hold our attention too much so we moved on to one of my favorite action puzzle games, Puyo Pop Fever. I'll be honest and say that I may even like this game more than Tetris. I first played it as "Puyo Puyo" on my Mac (I think a friend from high school showed it to me) and then as xpuyo on my university's Suns. If you are unfamiliar with the gameplay, two connected blobs of various color fall down the screen. Once they get to the bottom, they stop and other connected blobs fall, all stacking on top of one another. Unlike Tetris, their connection is week so if you rotate the blobs horizontally and place one on a tall stack of blobs, the other blob will detach and fall down until it is directly over another place blobs. If four or more blobs of the same color are touching, they disappear and all the blobs above them fall down. This can cause other groups of four or more touching blobs, and thus chains or combos are created this way. When playing against another player, clearing blobs sends special gray blobs to your opponent's side, clearing a lot of blobs and especially chaining combos sends even more. Just like Tetris, when the screen is filled up, you lose.

I have played this game quite a bit and consider myself pretty good at it, so I was not surprised when I won my first game against a friend who had never played it before. I then handed my DS to another friend to play. It was his first time and I watched him as he just simply connected the blobs. His opponent was doing the same thing, so neither's board was filling up. Then, suddenly, he went into Puyo Pop Fever mode where his screen he was working on was replaced with a new screen with blobs set up for big combos and a blob-pair dropping to take advantage of the built-in combos. This lasted for a few seconds and he built up a trully staggering amount of gray blobs to send to his opponent who quickly lost.

I then attempted to play against him and was doing pretty well - but then he got in Fever mode again and just killed me. Another friend tried it. Again, they started pretty slowly. Then the one who had been winning got Fever mode. His opponent got it quickly after him, so I figured this would stay close, but no, my original friend won again.

Finally, I had enough and vowed that I would beat him to show just how much I rocked (I mean, if I can school everyone at Tetris, which I am not nearly as good at, I have to do well with Puyo Puyo). So, I tried my hardest, setting up as many combos as I could and filling his screen as high as possible. It looked liked I had him... and then he entered Fever mode. So I tried my best to keep up and survive all the crap he was dropping on me. And I managed to basically shut down his fever mode by dumping a crapload of gray blobs on it. So then when he got out, his board wasn't so high, but mine was pretty open as well. And then I entered Fever mode. There was nothing he could do and I made short work of him. Ah, that was glorious.

Anyway, even though it has seen a million iterations on every console since at least the 16-bit generation, Puyo Puyo (or Puyo Pop, or Kirby's Avalanche or Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine ) is one of the best 2-player versus puzzle experiences you can have.

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