Puchi Puchi Virus Review for Nintendo DS

Puchi Puchi Virus Review for Nintendo DS

Puchirus Killer

It’s time for game makers to face it: DS-owning puzzle fans are getting sick of swapping tiles, matching three, and watching blocks shift and fall. It’s time for something new.

Puchi Puchi Virus screenshot

Publisher NIS, best known for its tactical RPG Disgaea, provides just that with the new Puchi Puchi Virus. The game features an original and ingenious new puzzle system, a pleasant-to-look-at art style, and an amusing cast of characters. It’s a ton of fun to play, even though it gets repetitive and the difficulty can be a little extreme.

The game board is a grid of hexagons, into which viruses (or virii, as the game incorrectly calls them) of various colors spawn. Touching a virus “locks” it, and touching two more of the same color creates a triangle. Then, touching any of the three locked viruses “pops” the triangle, getting rid of the three viruses and earning you points. The viruses stand still at the beginning of a puzzle, but start moving part-way through.

There are four major features that build on this simple formula. The first is that when you create a triangle, it locks all the viruses contained within the three sides. Therefore, if there are three or more same-colored viruses within the triangle, they will form another triangle, and popping the original triangle will pop the internal match as well, creating a “two-chain.” Also, if there are only one or two viruses of a given color inside the triangle, you can match them to viruses outside the triangle (by simply selecting those outside viruses). Using this latter method, and then matching still more outside viruses to the viruses locked in the new triangle, you can create longer chains.

Puchi Puchi Virus screenshot

The second feature is congealment. When you let a virus sit too long without using it, or if you lock a virus or triangle and fail to pop it quickly, it will turn hard and unusable. The only way to de-congeal a virus is to make and pop a triangle around it. If the whole screen gets congealed, you lose.

Feature three is the bar that appears on the left side of the screen. Whenever you pop a triangle that does not chain with other triangles, the bar rises a little. As the bar gets higher, viruses calcify faster. The only way to bring the bar down is to create chains; the longer the better.

Puchi Puchi Virus screenshot

The final feature of the puzzle system is a pill. For each of the 50 triangles you pop in a given puzzle, you receive (and then power up) this pill; you can tap it with the stylus to use it. Depending on how powerful the pill has become, it will revive a certain proportion of the congealed viruses. This is an invaluable tool in the later levels.

All of this is presented in a simple, colorful, kid-friendly anime art style. The game is certainly no graphics showcase, but it’s clear that the designers paid close attention to the way the interface, viruses, and characters look. You’ll never confuse one type of virus for another, and visually, the game is a consistent, cohesive whole.

The developers also went above and beyond the call of duty in couching the puzzles in an innovative story with interesting characters. Essentially, the Puchirus virus is spreading through town, and it turns people into various animals. The only way to turn the victims back is to kill the viruses, and to do so you need to use a special machine. The victims themselves are a marvel; there are more than 100, and each animal has its own image and quirky description. For example, one character is named Flying Pan… duh, and his description reads: “Uses her [frying] pan/jetpack combo to soar to new heights of culinary delight.” When you’ve saved a patient, a child appears and thanks you.

Puchi Puchi Virus screenshot

The writing throughout the game is terrific (though the little girl who says “Should we go back to your exam room? Teehee!” after being healed made us a wee bit uncomfortable). There’s a tutorial that stands out for being incredibly simple, direct, and easy to follow; one trip through it will teach even a total puzzle newcomer the ropes. The soundtrack consists of whimsical MIDI tracks and effects, something like what you’d expect in a Mario game, and it’s well-done enough that you won’t get sick of it for a while.

The game saves your progress after you cure each animal, and the difficulty ramps up quite rapidly. Each puzzle has its own goal and time limit; you might have to clear a certain number of viruses, or amass a certain number of points. At first, your best bet will be to make huge triangles that capture lots of smaller triangles inside them, a process that only creates two-chains but knocks out viruses and racks up points quickly. This is a manageable enough task, though it gets tough when the viruses move around. Hitting one wrong virus with the stylus can completely throw you off, because the locked viruses from the triangle you failed to make congeal quickly.

Some challenges require a certain number of larger chains, and that’s where the difficulty gets downright wicked. You need to pay attention to which colors you’ve locked inside of a triangle, and then you have to arrange the subsequent triangles in a way that will create a cascade of pops. It gets insanely frustrating at times, and is definitely beyond the abilities of the small children the artwork appears targeted toward. It might have been better to have a normal and a hard difficulty, with the demands for large chains confined to the hard one.

Still, it only takes an hour or two of relatively easy work to unlock the second batch of cases, and with that you’ll have plenty of patients to work on without worrying about huge chains (before selecting a patient, you’re told the criteria for winning). If anything, the game starts to get repetitive long before it’s over, and what’s more, you keep your old case files as “research,” meaning that you can re-play old puzzles as much as you’d like. It’s more than a little annoying that beating the game is an almost-insurmountable feat, but ignoring that, there’s hours and hours worth of fun here. There’s also online and local multiplayer available.

Essentially, Puchi Puchi Virus is a refreshing, innovative, and fun game, and it’s easily worth a buy for the DS-owning puzzle fan. When the inevitable “deluxe version” or whatnot comes around, however, the developers might want to fine-tune the difficulty and add some new modes. Until then, we bet lots of people will be destroying lots of Puchirus.

It’s not a graphics showcase, but it’s clear that a lot of careful attention was paid to the way this game looks. 3.2 Control
The touch screen works well for this kind of game, but the viruses are small enough and the action frantic enough that you’ll miss what you’re aiming for now and then. 4.3 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
There’s a nice-sounding, whimsical soundtrack that’s similar to what you’d expect from a Mario game. 4.5

Play Value
There are tons of puzzles, and they’re fun to solve. However, they get a little difficult and repetitive sometimes.

4.3 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Complete freedom over puzzle solving.
  • Touch pad control to link combos.
  • More than 100 unique patients to treat.
  • Downloadable multi-play shares the fun.
  • Wacky comic-style characters to brighten the screen.

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