Friday, 23 February 2018

Nyoki Nyoki Tabidachi-hen (3DS)

The developer/publisher of this game is a company named Compile-O, who are apparently made up of former members of Compile. Considering that this is a colour-matching versus puzzle game, that must be a good thing, right? At first glance, the little multicoloured blobs look a lot like Puyos, too. Luckily, though Nyoki Nyoki Tabidachi-hen manages to be both a good game, and an original enough concept to avoid being trapped in Puyo Puyo's shadow.

Like in Puyo Puyo, you put the same-coloured blobs next to each other and they merge, but unlike Puyo Puyo, you can keep doing this with as many of them as you like, and they won't disappear on their own, they'll just keep merging into bigger and bigger hattifattener-like blobby towers until you're ready to make them pop. The process of making them pop is a little like Super Puzzle Fighter, or Baku Baku Animal, in that you accumulated tower of blobs has to be touched by an activation blob of the same colour to vanish. The difference being that in this game, rather than waiting around for the activator to be given to you, at the touch of a button, you can change the piece you're currently controlling into an activator, and you can do this whenever you like, and how often you like.

Obviously, getting rid of lots of blobs at once means giving your opponent lots of junk blobs to get in their way, but even this is subject to the same kind of player choice as the activator blobs. All the junk pieces you create by destroying the coloured blobs on your side are stored until you want to use them. Once they're there, you can drop them at any time you like, though a maximum of 40 can be dropped in one go, after which there's a few seconds of cooldown time. These two mechanics, the player-summoned activator blobs and the player-launched junk blobs work together to create a unique kind of tension not usually seen in these kinds of games: you might be tempted to build up huge piles of blobs before you get rid of them, or huge amounts of junk to pummel your opponent with, but you have to be careful and keep an eye on what they're doing too, as if you're not, just a few well-timed junk blobs dropped into your field could ruin all your plans.

So yeah, Nyoki Nyoki Tabidachi-hen is a decent game, that proves that there's still new things to be done with the competitive colour matching puzzle genre. And by the people who started it, no less! Of course, it's a Japan-only 3DS game, so actually getting to play it might be difficult for some people, but I'm sure you can figure something out if you want it.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Super Bubble 2003 (Arcade)

There's an unusual story behind this post: a total stranger on Youtube sent me a message saying that the only information they could find on it anywhere were short video clips, and asked if I could write a post about it. I'd never heard of it before, and looked up those short video clips, and it looked okay, so here this post is.

For a long long time, I've lamented that I would often see screenshots of freemium MMORPGs and mobile phone games from Korea with really, incredibly good pixelart and sprites, always sad that there was this pool of talent there was was a perfect fit for cool, fun, arcade-style games, seemingly doomed to an eternity of their art being wasted in a world of nickel-and-diming micro-transactions and grind-based games. Meanwhile, Korean arcade games had a reputation for not only being incredibly low in quality, but also for stealing art assets from western and Japanese games. Super Bubble 2003 bucks both trends by not only being okay to play, but by having all-original (as far as I can tell) artwork!

And that artwork is truly excellent. All the characters are super-cute and well-animated, the points items are all lovingly rendered sprites depicted various foods, everything's bright and colorful without being garish; it's all just really high quality. I think the only negative thing I can say about this game, visually speaking, is that there's no visible life counter! The music and sound effects are pretty unremarkable, if you're wondering.

As for how it plays: it's a Bubble Bobble clone. Like most BB clones, it doesn't, as far as I can tell, copy the original's Druaga-esque system of byzantine secrets-within-secrets, only the core mechanics of trpping enemies in bubbles and popping them for points items. It does a pretty good job of it, though, and it does add a couple of other things to the formula, too: there's a tug-o-war minigame that appears when you collect a magic wand, and a giant/invincible mode that happens when you collect a bootleg Superman icon. The minigame is pretty much impossible to win, as far as I can tell though, so I have no idea what the prize is. The giant/invinciblity power up is nice, having its own super-cute sprites rather than just blowing up the regular-sized ones.

It's got a very steep difficulty curve that almost instantly shoots right up after you finish the first set of fifteen stages. I shamefully have to admit that I credit-fed up to the mid-30s to take screenshots, but I find credit-feeding incredibly boring so stopped there. It's proper difficulty, though: it doesn't change the rules on you or any other underhand tactic like that. With a lot of practice and skill, you could totally 1cc this game eventually. Whether or not it's a recommended play hinges, I guess, on your tolerance for that sort of thing, possibly tempered by your desire to see super-cute sprites. Give it a try, I guess?