Puzzle games are a dime a dozen on gaming platforms and even more so on systems where bite-sized gaming thrives. Handhelds have always been cluttered with block-dropping simulators ever since Tetris took the world by storm on the original GBA. Twenty-plus years later and we are still finding new ways to clear lines with logic as is apparent with Irem’s latest – unfortunately titled – Puzzle Guzzle. Much like every other game of this type that has come before it Puzzle Guzzle has a host of traditional features, a couple peculiar ones and a price tag that will make it hard for fans of the genre to pass it up.
We begin with the basics. Unlike other block-clearing phenomenon Puzzle Guzzle takes a new approach. Instead of vertical or even horizontal thinking you have to think polygonal. Each block has a triangle pattern on it and the idea is to create diagonal patterns to clear blocks. Think of it much like the no-name DDR machines you find in some arcades where instead of up, down, left and right you have a series of diagonal patterns. For the most part this idea works and when you break it down Puzzle Guzzle works and remains entertaining, however there are a few kinks that keep it from becoming a classic in the field of puzzle games.
Puzzle Guzzle consists of three different modes two of which can be played multi-player. The first is your standard fare called Drop Puzzle. Here blocks drop just like any other puzzle game and you need to clear them before the screen fills up. The second is called Stuffit Puzzle and is primarily time based. In this mode the screen is constantly full of blocks and you have a set amount of time to rack up as many points as you can. The final mode is called Quiz Puzzle and was easily my favorite of the bunch. Here you are given a set of challenges with no set time limit. The goal is to solve the puzzle in a set amount of moves so there is less focus on reflex and more on problem solving.
None of the modes are very revolutionary, but they are all entertaining. You can also play two of them in what is called challenge mode, where the game pits you against an AI opponent. Of course you can also face off against human opponents via ad-hoc multi-player and it even supports game sharing, which is always a plus. In multi-player you can only play Drop and Stuffit, which makes sense, but it still would have been nice to throw in some Quiz modes to see who could solve the puzzles the fastest.
One of the cooler additions though is the ability to create your own puzzle combinations via the in-game editor. Here you can create, upload and even share your creations with friends and even download new puzzles and themes directly from the in-game web browser. Customization also bleeds into your avatar within the game. At the beginning this is simply a customary happy face on a block, but as you progress through the challenge mode you will face off against other avatars that upon their demise, you can steal one of their features for your own. While not the most intuitive form of customization at least it adds something to shoot for in challenge mode.
Thankfully Puzzle Guzzle contains a few extras on the UMD that will likely confuse and hold your interest. The most unusual is the in-game horoscope. What makes this so puzzling is that it bears no pertinence on the game itself, it is simply there to entertain. The other cool thing Puzzle Guzzle does is keep track of all your stats within the game. I may be a sucker for this type of extra, but I absolutely love being able to see my progress in a game as well as my tendencies.
The biggest issue with Puzzle Guzzle is that even though the game is inherently functional it simply doesn’t stand out among the crowd. This is most obvious in the game’s disappointing presentation. The visuals sport a limited color palette and there is very little onscreen to make things stand out. The music is also repetitive and the sound effects are simply ho-hum. The concept is also confusing at first; the idea of creating diagonal patterns may be a welcome addition to some, but for others it could quickly lead to a dismissal of the game altogether.
For twenty bucks it is hard not to recommend Puzzle Guzzle to fans of the genre. It does a lot of things right and only suffers from not being flashy or overly innovative. The modes are enjoyable, the customization is decent and the extras are more than worth the price tag. If you are in the mood for something different I recommend giving this game a go. For the price you certainly can’t go wrong, just don’t expect the second coming of Tetris.