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PSP Review - 'Capcom Puzzle World'

by Andrew Hayward on Feb. 22, 2007 @ 12:20 a.m. PST

Capcom Puzzle World for the PSP is a collection with five amazing gem busting titles including the cult classic Super Puzzle Fighter II, Block Block, and the three-in-one Buster Bros. Collection.

Genre: Puzzle
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Sensory Sweep Studios
Release Date: February 6, 2007

Tetris not only captured the hearts and minds of an all-new generation of Game Boys (and Girls); it occupied lengthy commutes, brought friends closer together, and devastated previously resolute marriages. Though puzzle games have since been developed (and have flourished) on other platforms, there is still an undeniable link between the portability of a handheld system and the pick-up-and-play nature of the best puzzlers of all time.

Aside from Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo, Capcom is not particularly well-known for its long lineage of puzzle games. However, Capcom is absolutely known for overextending its ancient franchises and re-releasing old games at a rapid pace. Capcom Puzzle World takes one absolute classic (Puzzle Fighter), three entries from a forgotten series (Buster Bros.), and one generic Arkanoid clone (Block Block) and brings them to the PlayStation Portable. Good deal? It's not so bad. Well, aside from the glitchy controls and regular freeze-ups and crashes.

Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo started life as an arcade game back in 1996, but Americans probably know it best from the 1997 PlayStation port (or perhaps the 2003 Game Boy Advance version). Silly title (and concept) aside, Puzzle Fighter is a truly addictive experience. As colored gems fall from the top of the screen, your goal is to connect as many like colors as possible in the hopes of creating large power gems. Every once in a while, a glowing crash gem will fall, and matching a crash gem to its regular counterpart will destroy all connected gems of the same color.

As you might notice from the screenshots (assuming you have not played this already), there are two playing fields on the screen at any given time. In Puzzle Fighter, you always have an opponent, be it the computer or an actual person. When you eliminate gems from your side of the screen, they are sent over to the other side in the form of counter-gems, which take a bit longer to get rid of. Though avoiding the top of the screen is absolutely necessary, your ultimate goal is to force your opponent to run out of space by sending over heaps of counter-gems.

What about the little guys duking it out in the middle of the action? It's all just for show — but that's part of the appeal of Puzzle Fighter, one of the quirkier spin-offs to emerge from the height of the Street Fighter era. The version of Puzzle Fighter included in Capcom Puzzle World is most similar to the import-only Dreamcast version, which featured two additional game types: Y and Z. Columns appears to be the basis for the Y game type, which challenges gamers to match up three or more gems of a single color, be it in a vertical, horizontal, or diagonal line. Crash gems are not included in the Y game, but counter-gems are still a force with which to be reckoned.

Z represents the most striking change, with gems pushing up from the base of the screen instead of falling from the top. As the rows of gems enter the field, you must rotate the gems within a 2x2 cursor to match up the regular ones with the crash gems. It reminds me a bit of something like Tetris Attack with a hint of Meteos, but it plays very differently than either of the other included types. After an adjustment period, I found the additional styles to be quite enjoyable, though perhaps lacking the rapid fluidity of the original game type.

One unfortunate omission comes with the lack of the Street Puzzle mode from the PSone and GBA iterations of the game, which gave you the option of taking on a heap of computer opponents in the hopes of unlocking concept art and background music. Concept art may already be included on the disc, but the lack of a larger mode like Street Puzzle makes the single-player experience a bit shallower than it was in the past. Sure, the competitors in Street Puzzle were hardly different from those in the Arcade mode, but the larger structure of the mode gave you something grander to work toward.

Otherwise, aside from some stretched character images (due to the widescreen aspect ratio), Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo comes as advertised, and the PSP d-pad is perfectly equipped for a fast-paced puzzler — anyone who has devoted days to Lumines can attest to that. Every game in Capcom Puzzle World can be played wirelessly via an Ad Hoc connection, but Puzzle Fighter presents the greatest multiplayer thrills. Neither Game Sharing nor Infrastructure play has been implemented, so you may want to get to work on convincing a friend or two to pick this up if you want to fight with puzzles.

The Buster Bros. games take up 60% of this collection but are unlikely to take up that much of your playtime. While not bad, these games are not especially interesting or addictive, and provide only slim thrills in this day and age. Buster Bros. and Super Buster Bros. are very similar entries, though the latter adds a nonstop Panic Mode into the mix. In each game, you must shoot a vertical wire to disable large, floating bubbles that threaten to ravage cities with their horrible ... bubbleness. Is this how the world viewed terrorism back in 1989?

Buster Buddies is perhaps the most accessible of the bunch, having been released in 1995 and featuring the kind of 3D-ish sprite-based characters seen in the Donkey Kong Country series. Famous works of art pepper the backgrounds, but the gameplay is essentially the same. Additional selectable characters offer new types of ammunition and special abilities, and a special pause feature that pops up after each death makes the whole experience a bit more tolerable.

Familiar with Breakout or Arkanoid? Block Block is essentially the same thing, though it was originally presented in something of a reverse widescreen aspect ratio (where the screen is much taller than it is wide). As such, the game takes up less than half of the PSP's widescreen display. Everything is so tiny! One logical solution would be to tilt the PSP sideways and have the d-pad be below the screen (and use up for left and down for right), but such an option was not included. It seems like a terrible waste of the PSP's tremendous visual real estate.

Block Block contains a decent amount of ball-bouncing, brick-breaking goodness, but neither the d-pad nor the analog stick is properly equipped to control this game. The analog stick is too slippery for precision gaming, but the d-pad has it much worse. The d-pad actually lags a bit, which makes it extremely difficult to maintain a solid volley. When attempting a move to the left, the paddle actually shifts slightly to the right before moving in the proper direction. Any quick tap to the left will essentially be cancelled out by this initial right movement. How did such an egregious flaw make it past playtesters?

Control issues may damage the playability of the game, but even worse are the random freezes and system crashes experienced while playing Capcom Puzzle Collection. During Puzzle Fighter and the Buster Bros. games, the title would often freeze up while loading or saving. On a few occasions, a mighty crash actually forced the system to power off! I initially chalked these issues up to a faulty disc or a PSP on the decline, but a quick check of the official Capcom message board reveals this to be a widespread issue. A handful of quick fixes have been mentioned on the board, but none seem to completely alleviate these issues. Until such issues can be resolved via replacement discs or a patch, Capcom Puzzle World can only be considered a faulty release.

Capcom Puzzle World is not a bad collection of games — just an unnecessary one. Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo can sell itself, Block Block is already on the PSP (via Capcom Classics Collection Remixed), and the Buster Bros. games are hardly revered as "puzzle" classics. Frequent freeze-ups and faulty controls hurt this otherwise decent package, which can only be recommended to the most hardcore Puzzle Fighter fanatics.

Score: 6.0/10

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