Pokemon Puzzle Challenge
  • Genre:
    • Puzzle
  • Platform:
    • Game Boy Color
  • Developer:
    • Intelligent Systems
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    • JP 09/21/2000
    • US 12/04/2000
    • UK 06/15/2001
Score: 75%

This review was published on 11/29/2015.

Pokemon Puzzle Challenge is a puzzle video game developed by Intelligent Systems and published by Nintendo for the Game Boy Color. It was originally released in Japan on September 21, 2000, North America on December 4, 2000, and Europe on June 15, 2001. This is pretty much a handheld version of the Pokemon Puzzle League game that was released on the Nintendo 64, which was essentially a Pokemon themed version of Tetris Attack from the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Whereas Pokemon Puzzle League was thematically based on the Pokemon television show, Pokemon Puzzle Challenge is based more on the video game series. Additionally, this game features Pokemon from the second generation of Pokemon games, Pokemon Gold and Silver. The main series of Pokemon is comprised of role-playing games that involve the catching of monsters, so Pokemon Puzzle Challenge is a spinoff. That doesn't make it any less good, however. In fact, this is one of the best puzzle games on the Game Boy Color. Pokemon Puzzle Challenge is hindered by the fact that it's on a portable, but it's still good.

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The challenge in Pokemon Puzzle Challenge comes in the form of skillfully manipulating blocks. A colorful stack of Tetris-like blocks will slowly rise from the bottom of the screen, and it's your mission to demolish as many as you can. Accomplishing such a task requires you to match three or more blocks horizontally or vertically, which you do by moving a cursor around and shifting the positions of blocks; the cursor can swap two blocks around horizontally. To form combos, you need to match four or more blocks all at once. Chains are created when the destruction of one set of blocks causes others to fall into the correct positions to match more blocks, causing a chain reaction. Combos and chains temporarily stop the blocks from rising, giving you more time to react. As usual, you lose if your screen is completely covered with blocks. Everything is mostly the same as Pokemon Puzzle League, except the grid size of the play area is much smaller in this game, resulting in less space to work with. That was obviously done to make the contents fit into the tiny Game Boy Color screen, but either way, it makes for an inferior experience.

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Challenge mode is this game's main single player story mode, if you could call it that. There's not much of a story to it, but then again, stories are irrelevant for puzzle games. This mode has you challenging computer controlled opponents to a puzzling duel of puzzles. The rules are simple: both players have a screen of blocks they must manage, and the objective is to make the opponent lose by filling their screen with garbage blocks. Garbage blocks are constructed and launched at the opposing player's screen when you form chains and combos, making these two techniques essential to victory. You're also able to link up Game Boys to play a similar versus mode against a friend. The problem with this version of the game, as opposed to the console variants, is that you're unable to see your opponent's screen. All you can see of your opponent is their general progress via a bar, but that's it. This takes some of the thrill away from the battles, especially during the single player mode. While this is a necessary sacrifice to get everything to fit onto the small portable screen, it still sucks.

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Line Clear is a single player mode wherein you cross the line like a person who is very cross. However, the line is hidden beneath many blocks, so you have to clear them out in order to find it. Once the line has been located, all you have to do is move all the remaining blocks beneath the line, and viola, you've won! There are multiple stages to clear in Line Clear mode, making it a fairly lengthy campaign on its own. The main challenge here is keeping up with the pace of the blocks, which get quite fast later on. There are also occasional bonus rounds that are insanely hard, wherein you try to take down an enemy's HP meter by forming combos and chains. This isn't quite as exciting as challenge mode, though, as you don't have the additional thrill of dealing with an opponent's garbage block attacks. If you still thirst for more single player shenanigans after beating challenge mode, then Line Clear will do the job just fine.

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Despite being deemed a puzzle game, you generally don't solve actual puzzles in Pokemon Puzzle Challenge. For that, you need to play the proper puzzle mode of the game, which acts as more of a side dish to accompany the main course of Line Clear and challenge mode. The gist of this mode is that you're faced with a set amount of blocks and you must carefully clear them out in a specific amount of moves, similar to chess puzzles. You can undo your previous moves if you make mistakes, and are also allowed a certain amount of hints. The puzzles start off ridiculously simple, but get nefariously difficult later on. This mode is more about careful, calculated planning rather than quick thinking, as there is no time limit and the blocks remain stationary. There are over 120 puzzles to solve, so this mode has the potential to last you a good while if you're the puzzle solving type.

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Marathon mode is where you go if you want to go on a marathon. Every block based puzzle game has an endless mode and that's what this essentially boils down to. The objective here is to go on a block busting spree to get as many points as you can before losing. It gets more difficult the longer you play, so losing becomes inevitable after a while. Alternatively, you can elect to play Time Zone, which is about getting the highest score you can manage in two minutes. The most unique of these modes is garbage mode, however. In garbage mode, you do basically the same thing as in marathon mode, but the catch is that garbage blocks will occasionally drop into your play area. It's certainly more challenging, but it's too similar to marathon mode to be interesting. All of these modes pale in comparison to Line Clear, challenge, and puzzle mode, though, as they lack solid goals. Their inclusion is merely a formality at this point.

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Training mode is the ideal place for new players to learn the basics of the game. Study and master techniques to become a better puzzle player by checking out the demo section, which has a bunch of short clips demonstrating how to execute the most common combos and chains. It's a handy resource to have around, even if you're already an expert. Practice mode is another way to hone your skills by allowing you to practice in a low pressure environment, as the blocks here move in slow motion. Your goal in practice mode is to reach a maximum of 9,999 points, which just so happens to be the maximum score reachable in this mode. All of this is optional, by the way, so you don't have to be weighed down by tutorial modes if you already know your stuff. In that manner, training mode is a great method to teach novices how to play the game without burdening proficient players with needless tutorial text.

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If you want a good puzzle game on the go, then Pokemon Puzzle Challenge may be worth a look. However, if you aren't the least bit interested in portability, then you're better off sticking with the home console variant, Pokemon Puzzle League, as it's completely superior to this. The console version of Tetris Attack is also way better. Too many concessions were made to fit Pokemon Puzzle Challenge onto a handheld device, somewhat hampering the game's fun factor. These concessions don't ruin the experience, but they do tarnish it.

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