Sifting through the ranks of obscure Japanese videogames used to be the sole preserve of the risk-taking importer; the chancer with a smidgen of kanji tumbling around his brain, some product listings cut from the back of a magazine, and a wacky bridge adapter for fooling his hardware into compliance. But now, thanks to the massive success of Nintendo DS, more of these games than ever are turning up locally, as small publishers like 505 Games take one look at Nintendo's figures (23 million DS consoles sold in the last 12 months, 123 million software sales, casual games outselling Mario) and start cutting cheques to Japanese companies like Taito, Success and Star-Fish. Budget-priced and in some cases roughly translated, the six titles reviewed on the next few pages are all available in this country, either this week or next, and it's all thanks to that man at work who says games are rubbish but secretly plays Brain Age with his girlfriend. You might have to look behind a few Nintendogs to find them, but they're there. The question is, will you want any of them?So, anoraks, throw away your magazines and join us for a sift.
It may not be a name that sticks in the memory, but Monster Puzzle is probably worth nailing to your pre-frontal lobe for a few hours at least. It's a falling blocks game that works a bit like Jewel Quest; there are lots of icons with monster faces on, your basic work is eliminating them in groups of three, and wherever you delete them the colour of the squares on the grid behind them changes.