Remember Meteos? The vertical block sliding? The fast, frantic action, and the maddening tick-tock of the clock at the top of your screen? The sweeping, dramatic story of taking your alien ship into the heart of madness and bombarding it with pretty squares and blocks? The others don't understand. They couldn't possibly comprehend the bloody tears you shed for every planet lost along the way -- every warrior that stood 'til the end and mumbled something heroic in whatever freaky alien language they knew.
It's pretty intense, man. But let's talk about this game called Planet Puzzle League, shall we? It's pretty similar to Meteos, minus the ecstatic hyperbole I threw it out above. But don't let the dearth of heart-pounding plot deter you! Planet Puzzle League may forgo the charm of its extraterrestrial brother, but the title more than makes it for its lack of emotional impact with a wealth of gameplay options. It also has the distinction of being pretty much perfect for a gamer on the go, a fact which should make my job a hell of a lot easier and your wallet just a little bit lighter. Grab your penny bank, ladies and gents, and come along with this week's edition of Gaming to Go. The Puzzle League awaits.
Gallery: Planet Puzzle League
Let's get the critical difference between Meteos and Planet Puzzle League right out in the open: the former lets you slide blocks vertical. The latter lets you slide blocks horizontal. Big deal, right? But any gamer lucky enough to have played both titles knows that such a simple change in direction affects the gameplay a great deal.
Where Meteos's alien madness forced you to keep an eye trained on the top of the screen as you flung blocks back towards the heavens, Planet Puzzle League pushes that eye down to the bottom, where rows of blocks continuously sneak up. Sliding squares left and right to make three-block combos makes said blocks disappear, dropping the above rows down in true Tetris fashion. From there you'll need to link combos together to make chains, which boost your score higher than any normal combo could. If you get impatient, you can tap a button on the side to automatically add another row at the bottom of the screen, a useful tactic whenever you're left with a bunch of mismatched squares.
It's standard puzzle fare, admittedly, but Planet Puzzle League offers the same enjoyment and speedy entertainment you've come to expect from the DS's expansive library of block-breaking games. Where this titles shines, however, is in the extra variations it offers on the formula, all of which are fun enough to be a viable choice the next time you fire the game up.
For the trash compactors among us, Garbage Challenge throws wide, impenetrable rectangles on top of your blocks, forcing you to deal with them quickly lest more stack up. The only way to break up the garbage is to make combos with the squares currently touching the garbage, at which point the trash breaks down into new blocks for you to work with. The pressure hits whenever a five column tall piece of garbage comes crashing down, forcing you to scramble about and try and figure out how in the hell you're going to match up the few same-colored pieces you have in order to save the situation.
If recycling isn't really your thing, you can always give the Puzzle mode a go, which gives you a few sets of blocks to work with and challenges you to make combos of them in order to clear the entire screen. It starts simple, but grows increasingly complex, with some later puzzles -- there's a ton -- giving you only three or four moves to clear half a screen of blocks. And once you clear the simple set, advanced puzzles await, a prospect far more terrifying than you might think. Depending on the size of that thing between your ears, puzzles like these can be a perfect way to pass the time, as they strike a fine balance between being short yet still challenging as you progress through the catalog.
Another category, appropriately titled Active Puzzles, require a little more involvement on your part, as you'll have to be quick to slide blocks around and set up combos as your previous ones are blinking out of existence. If nothing else, it serves a great way to familiarize yourself with chain-making, a skill which serves infinitely useful in racking up high scores.
Time Attack mode is also very well-suited for the busy gamer, as it gives you only two minutes to score as many points as possible in three different gameplay variations: Garbage Attack, Score Attack, and Lift Attack. Score Attack is fairly self-explanatory, challenging you to link up several combos and chains to net a high score. Lift Attack encourages vertical combos, as you'll only earn points when you add rows of blocks at the bottom of the screen.
Along those lines is the interesting Daily Play mode, which pretty much amounts to a Time Attack mode that you can only play once a day. The scores you net each day are then recorded and added to a line graph, the idea being that you can get a quick game in each day to monitor the progression of your skill. It's a nifty feature that actively encourages the pick-up-and-play lifestyle most of us adhere to, and it's also a great boost to self-esteem to see how far you've come from your god-awful beginning. Don't ask what my first Garbage Attack score was. I won't tell you.
All in all, Planet Puzzle League is an excellent package for the gamer on the go. It does lack any sort of unlockables, denying a tangible reward to the dedicated player, but the gameplay is satisfying enough in all of its variants that it makes that fact easy to overlook. And you can't go wrong with a title that actively caters to a busy lifestyle, can you? With Time Attack, Daily Play, and many other gameplay modes, Planet Puzzle League suits our time-crunched lives very well indeed.
Sleep time: Make sure you pause the game before you close the lid! Planet Puzzle League, unfortunately, doesn't do it for you.
Load time: Around twenty seconds to get into the game and start a match. The number drops a few seconds if you pick Daily Play, since it's conveniently located right on the main menu.
Play time: Time Attack and Daily Play are restricted to only two minutes, which make them great to pick up and play. The other modes shouldn't take more than a few minutes per round either, though be wary of letting the Puzzle mode suck you in.
Tick tock of the clock ringing in your ears? Tell your timepiece to shove it! We live busy lives, but remember this: there's always time to game. Check back with Gaming to Go every week for the latest and greatest titles you should spend your precious few minutes with.