Now this is just galling. Nokia do their best to not draw comparisions with 'the other system' (Nintendo's Gameboy Advance range), but I can't help it with this little puzzler. Puyo Pop is a Japanese game which is not that well known outside the Land of the Rising Sun. But the concept is, because in an inspired 3 o'clock in the morning Marketing Decision, they took the puzzle element from Puyo Pop, added in a story and a cute animie style Chun Li (with her friends) and turned out Puzzle Fighter.
And Puzzle Fighter stayed in my GBA for ever, so Puyo Pop better be a good conversion.
Unfortunatly, it isn't. While not as bad as Puzzle Bobble Vs, Puyo Pop is pretty poor, and not really a good game to show of the Nokia N-Gage. The screen is cramped, there's not enough emphasis on the User Interface and the menu's, and it suffers from some deliberate 'freezes' in the middle of a game.
From the top, the menus are uninspiring - nothing more than a list of text options against a marbled background. It looks like this is the test version the programmer put together, with the intention that the graphic designer would add in a nice backdrop, change the font, and make it look more like the animated intro. In fact, this test version is the final version. Infinitly better than the Series 60 standard, but woefully inadequate for an MMC Game Card.
At least it's easy to navigate and start the game. And when you get to the game... the curse of nobody thinking about tailoring the screen design to the Series 60 / N-Gage 176x208 pixels strikes again. The two player design is key to the game of Puyo Pop, but there is no need for the opponent screen to be the same size as the main player screen. If you doubled the player screen, you could still make out what's going on with your opponent, what Puyo pieces are next, and generally make the game a much more enjoyable experience.
And now the gameplay. It's a bit flat. Actually that's not true. It's very flat. The aim is to get four or more Puyo's of the same colour together, and then they dissappear. That might make more groups of Puyos that can dissappear. And more Puyo's dissappearing means more uncoloured Puyo's are dropped on your opponents grid.
This isn't a game of endurance, but of making sure your opponent runs out of space before you do? Sounds exciting? Yes! Is it? No!
The controls are sluggish, the game grid is too small (see above), but worst of all, theres a one second delay between a pair of Puyo's stopping at the bottom of their fall, to the next Puyo's starting their descent to the surface. How this passed the quality control of the playtesters I will never know. It destorys any flow you can build up in the game, turning it into a rather shuddering stop start manifestation, especially when you get to the higher and faster levels.
I'm sorry, but when there's a fault in the core gameplay, nothing can save a title. Not the two player option over bluetooth - which offers no extra gameplay over the single player version. There a 'puzzle' section which presents Puyo challenges along the lines of "remove all the Puyo's" or "dissappear 10 Puyo's in one go," but you're fighting the one second delay and the poor graphics all the way.
Puyo Pop has to go down as a very poor exectution of an average idea. I can't recommend it. Given that the idea is very pervasive, I'd expect some enterprising shareware author to come up with a much more refined version, at a much more realistic price.
Final score, 30%. It avoids the Zeppelin Award, and that's about the only good thing I can say about it.