Puzzle League DS

Puzzle League DS

Puzzle League DS

Panel de pondered.

Puzzle League DS is a derivative of Panel de Pon. In the interests of full disclosure, I think Panel de Pon is a bit crap. "Bit of a handicap for a Panel de Pon reviewer," you might think. In practice, it doesn't make a huge difference. Describing why it's so liked or loathed isn't hard. And it's worth getting that stuff out of the way quickly, anyway, because it'll leave more space to talk about Intelligent Systems' superb DS port job. This really is one of the best puzzle game packages around.

Concept's simple. Jumbled up blocks rise from the bottom of the screen and you have to form rows or columns of three or more of the same colour to get rid of them. The challenge is doing this when you can only move individual blocks left and right, which is the limitation Panel de Pon places on you. There's no restriction on which you move - so unlike Zoo Keeper/Bejeweled/etc. you can grab one, and move it to somewhere where it has no effect on its surroundings - but you should bear in mind that columns are worth more points than rows, as they're a bit harder to arrange, while groups of four or more are also more valuable, and chains are like mana from heaven. Naturally you're meant to avoid running out of space while building up your score.

So, people like it because getting a big score without pootling along listlessly for 84 hours in a row is quite a haul. You have to be able to spot good chains, and more significantly the nebulous elements that go to the genesis of a good chain. When you can, you get good. What's dull, from my perspective, is how easy it is to just float on. Even on the hardest difficulty, I don't have trouble keeping the game alive, as the blocks creep ploddingly up the screen. You can accelerate their passage, but the fact they felt you'd need to sort of underlines my concern. There seems to me more neatness in the concept of a game like Lumines, and equally more variation.

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Panel De Pon for DS

Out in Japan in April.

Nintendo Japan has said that classic puzzler Panel De Pon will be heading to Japanese DS owners in April (providing they pay for it, obviously), although there's no news on an American or European release.