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Puzzling Goodness

Can Meteos obtain any recognition when sided against big boys like Tetris and Puyo Pop?

Puzzle video games are very unique. Why? Because only puzzle games have a pick up and play motif that offers an unlimited amount of fun and replay value. Meteos most definitely fits this bill and is a game that can only be played on the Nintendo DS. Since the DS?s launch, most games used the stylus as a gimmick as opposed to the main controlling factor. However, Meteos is a game where using a simple D-pad is not enough. Only through the accuracy of the stylus can this game be played.

Most puzzle games do not have a story line, and rightfully so. The goal of any puzzle game is to obtain the highest score possible. However, the developers at Q Entertainment managed to create a story line that fits well with the entire Meteos theme. In fact, it is a heavy driving force linking one match to the next. The player assumes the role of an ark spaceship destined to fight the evil planet Meteo. This ark must travel from planet to planet and stop any incoming meteos pieces from falling, which would cause harm to the planet. As strange as the story is, it actually works very well with the progression of the game.

Meteos is a one of a kind game as many factors separate it from other puzzle games. Different colored square pieces fall from the top of the screen and pile up at the bottom, much like any other puzzle game, but the similarities stop there. Instead of thinking about setting up your pieces in a horizontal direction like Tetris, Meteos makes use of vertical arrangements. The player uses the stylus to swap these different colored pieces vertically. You cannot exchange pieces in a horizontal manner as in Bejeweled or Tetris Attack. The goal is to arrange three or more of the same colored pieces adjacently. Once these meteos pieces connect, they fuse and are rocketed upward towards the top of the screen. If any meteos pieces manage to fly off lower screen, they are sent as garbage pieces to opponents, hindering their gameplay.

Combos can be achieved and must be taken into consideration when going for a kill or for a hefty point bonus. Each planet, or stage, where the game takes place has its own gravity amount and a different set of pieces. In some levels, there is a lot of gravity, forcing the player to make more combos to send their pieces skyward. Once one set of pieces is launched in the air, another threesome can be linked to relaunch the stack in mid air. These combos give large stacks that extra push they need in order to be blasted off screen and onto their opponent?s. The bigger the stack that gets launched at one time, the more garbage pieces will be sent. On some planets, pieces can only be launched by using combos.

The action takes place on the bottom touch screen while the top screen displays the time, score, and a mock up battle between the warring planets. The D-pad can be used to highlight pieces that you want to be moved, but it is entirely too slow. The player will quickly realize just how important the stylus is. Also, touch accuracy must be spot on. If you are not accurate with each stylus tap, the player will quickly succumb to an overloaded screen. Metoes can only be played on the Nintendo DS due to its unique hardware as the use of the touch screen is just as crucial as having two screens.

This game has a ton of replay value. Each metoes piece that gets launched off screen is stored in the status screen and can be used as currency to purchase new items, planets, and other unlockables. Anyone who has played Super Smash Bros. Melee, or Kirby Air Ride on Nintendo GameCube will notice a similarly within the menu systems. The same developer who designed these GC games also created Meteos. The menu system is very easily traversed and is even interactive and movable. Menus can be stabbed with the stylus and dragged around to any position on screen to fit the player?s liking. The game even keeps track of other useless, but very informative statistics including how many times the game has been booted up, the amount of time spent playing the game, and how many total meteos pieces have been launched. All stats even influence what unlockables get unlocked. The more you play, the more game there is to be had. Besides from having addicting gameplay, the wealth of unlockables is another driving force to play the game as much as possible.

Besides unlocking a ton of extras, Meteos has many different forms of play. The standard play is to go from one planet to the next blasting meteos off the screen while trying to reach a showdown with the end planet, Meteo. By clearing different planets, and meeting certain requirements (such as lunching 30 blue pieces on a particular planet) you can carve a different path to Meteo and receive a different ending. There is also the deluge mode with the simple goal of playing one stage and racking up the points and meteos until you perish. But the game really shines in wireless Vs mode. One game card can be used to play up to a four player Vs match, but it is highly encouraged to play with multiple cards. In single card mode, the options available are limited and stats will not be kept. However, when playing multi-card mode, all stats are kept and any items or planets obtained in the single player game can be used against your friends. This game even offers a demo download to give to other DS users. This demo game is sent to an idle DS system and stored in its RAM. The game can be played until the power is shut off. This try-before-you-buy technique is a great way to convince your friends into buying their own copy of the game.

The music and graphics definitely fit well together. Each planet is represented by an abstract hieroglyphic-like creature. Each one of these creatures will bounce around on screen when playing a match. These idiosyncratic characters work hand in hand with the game?s music. While the player will not hum along with each tune, the music fits the quirkyness of each planet. And since each planet is different, the game?s pieces will always change from each round to the next, providing a nice dose of variety. The graphics and audio by no means push the system to its limits, but is fits the puzzle game eccentric values to a T.

DS owners definitely need to check out Meteos, puzzle fan or not. The addictive gameplay is good enough to play for a quick five-minute round or a gaming session that can last for hours. Once the player becomes adjusted to using the stylus, the addictive qualities will shine through, especially when there are so many things to unlock. The multiplayer mode can be enjoyed with up to four players with only one game card (but multi-card is clearly the way to go) and the game?s stat trackers will blow your mind when you realize how much time you put into this game. Meteos is definitely a unique game that can only be played through the DS?s hardware and walks a path of its own. Meteos is a puzzle game that is like no other. For this, everyone should play it. If you have not picked up a DS yet, Meteos just might be the reason to do so.

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