NIS America is known first and foremost for their Disgaea games, so it always comes as a shock when they try to do something new. First we had last year’s Grim Grimoire, and now we have Puchi Puchi Virus, a deceptive little puzzle title for the Nintendo DS. The seemingly cutesy graphic style belies an innovative “Destroy ‘em all” kind of system akin to that of Puyo Pop or Planet Puzzle League. Puchi Puchi Virus does a few interesting things that makes it stand out amidst the swollen market of puzzle games on the DS. But the competition is stiff and Puchi Puchi Virus does have some issues that make it seem less appealing than the current reigning puzzle champ, Tetris DS.
Puchi Puchi Virus developer Jaleco has created a clever little story to go along with the game; Puchirus are turning people into cutesy monsters and as the only doctor in town, it’s time to blast the viruses and restore the people to their natural form. Some of these characters are an interesting play on words like Hybear Nate or famous people like Cluck Norris (please tell me I’m not the only one sick of hearing Chuck Norris jokes).Of course that’s the extent of a story and while it’s minimal, it feels a lot better than just moving through a bunch of menus to enter the game. The graphical styling of Puchi Puchi Virus is obviously very anime-esque and it fits the game just fine. Audio on the other hand is very limited to just a few tracks, with the main musical theme being used in every puzzle stage you play. This music gets old really quickly and eventually becomes grating.
After an extensive introduction on how to play the game and learning how to crush the Puchirus you are given a grouping of patients to deal with, all of these patients have a pre-requisite to clear the stage, and if you meet certain hidden criteria you’ll be rewarded as well. Now in order to get rid of the Puchirus in the first place you must link three of them together on a field that is populated with other Puchirus. But you have to be quick, for if they are not cleared they will turn solid and cannot be used until they are turned back in to normal Puchirus. To get them back to normal get them inside of a triangle, any normal Puchirus in the triangle will become activated and must be linked up with more Puchirus to form another triangle. This is how you create chain combos which will lead you to a higher score. The use of the stylus makes this an easy game to pick up and play at a moment’s notice.
The difficulty level in this game ranges from pathetic to challenging, and it’s a gradual climb thankfully. After a while you’ll be figuring out the trick to creating massive chains, but with the higher level of difficulty comes the reduced amount of time you have to catch viruses, which can be frustrating because after you’ve selected a virus, and moved on to the second, by the time you’ve reached the third you’ll find that you first virus has already turned solid, so you’re pretty much better off starting over at this point. You can get solid viruses back to normal with power-ups attained for every fifty that you knock out, and if you’re in a rush you can speed up the rate at which the viruses appear.
Puchi Puchi Virus is a good effort as a puzzle title, but it’s a long ways from toppling the puzzle behemoth of Tetris DS. It has its fun elements but it’s very one dimensional, you’ve got a time limit to clear a requirement, and beyond that there isn’t much else to do. You’ve got multiplayer, which allows you to share the game with someone who doesn’t have the cart which is nice. In the end Puchi Puchi Virus will push and shove with other puzzle titles on the store shelves and it deserves a spot in your collection if you’re looking for something new, but that new game smell quickly wears off.
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