We’ve covered a number of entries in Sega’s
Puyo series before, but they all had one of two things in common: They were either A)
Import titles, or B) Re-branded with some other franchise character, be it Kirby or
Dr. Robotnik. Only four games in the series ever stood on their own in America: Three
different handheld versions of varying quality, released for the Neo-Geo Pocket Color, GBA,
and the Nokia N-Gage, and Puyo Pop Fever on the DS and GameCube. These latter offerings
hit in that magical sixth-generation window when you could have a very quick-and-dirty
translation, get some receptionists to say some lines in a makeshift sound booth fashioned
from a storage closet, and try to convince someone that ”From the Makers of Sonic the
Hedgehog” is a cogent argument as to a puzzle game’s credentials. I’m not one to complain.
I’m just grateful to have version of Puyo in English. Or, befitting my whims, a strange
amalgamation of Japanese and Italian. It’s the same blob-matching action you’ve
come to know and love, complete with the usual gauntlets of opponents ready to school you
in the ways of the puyo. Where Fever deviates from its predecessors is in the inclusion
of three- and four-puyo configurations mixed in with the usual falling pairs, as well as
an all-new Fever mode. We all know that if your opponent has successfully popped puyos
and is threatening your side with a rain of trash, you can buy time by offsetting their
attack with combos of your own. In Fever, doing this also charges a gauge in the middle
of the screen, which when filled replaces your existing board with pre-built, chain-ready
constructions, to punish your opponent fast and furiously. You’ve only got a limited
time with fever mode, though, and you only get one reaction per construction, so if you
accidentally pop something without chaining, you’re out of luck and have to wait while
the next board is set. Betcha he’ll feel that one in the morning. In addition to the standard single-player
campaign are a couple Endless modes, featuring either the classic Puyo gameplay, a Fever-blitz
mode where longer chains and more complete clears buy you time as you race against a
clock, and a slightly-slower-paced mission mode where completing certain goals…. buys
you time as you race against a clock. You can take on a friend head-to-head, or set
up a grudge match against a CPU player whose particular playstyle seems to defeat you constantly.
You can say what you want about the cartoony, Super Bust-A-Move-2-eqsue presentation, but
just like that version, if you can actually pay attention to anything aside from the puyos
in your stack, you’re doing something wrong. Puyo is a dangerous, addictive substance.
I now understand why it’s been kept so tightly controlled on these shores.