Friday, 6 April 2018

Palamedes II - Star Twinkles (NES)

You might remember that a while back, I reviewed the arcade game Palamedes, which was all about matching dice and forming hands and so on. Palamedes II is the sequel to that game, obviously. It's still about matching dice and forming hands, but it's been completely re-jigged to make a much faster, more competitive game.

The most obvious difference compared to the first game (and the only one that Wikipedia mentions) is that the dice now rise up from the bottom of the screen, rather than descending from the top, but there are many more changes. For example, while before, your character held a die, and you would cycle through the sides, throwing it up to hit a matching die above. Now, you press a button to shuffle the column of dice directly beneatht you, and another to take the top of the column. Complicating this is the fact that you can only take a die that is the same, or one higher or lower than the last die that was taken. This is simple enough to keep track of in the single player endurance mode, but when you've got an opponent, the same "last die taken" applies to both players, which offers an extra little strategic element as you try and ruin your opponent's hands while building your own.

The hands themselves have also changed, as they're now made up of only four dice instead of six, which means versus games are a lot faster, with both sides forming hannds and cashing them in every couple of seconds, and as a result, both characters moving up and down the screen quickly. It's pretty exciting, and a good change all round, even if it does take away the satisfaction of forming a nice clean 1-2-3-4-5-6 hand like in the first game. I should probably mention that as the dice are ascending up the screen, the characters stand on a platform on top of them, and you lose when your character is crushed between their platform and the ceiling. Oh, and forming hands erases rows of dice from beneath you, and forces the same number to quickly rise up beneath your opponent. Those are pretty important details, but I just couldn't find a place to fit them in until now.

I've said this before about competitive puzzle games, but though Palamedes II is a great game, it's in a genre with some pretty much perfect entries in the form of the Puyo Puyo series, the Magical Drop series, and in more recent times, Puyo Puyo x Tetris, too. But if you've got a Famicom (or a NES with an adaptor, or some other Famicom-compatible console) and you see a copy of this game going cheap somewhere, it's definitely worth picking up.

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