Review by Ponsardin
"What a surprise from the makers of Lumines!"
Once upon a time, there was a Japanese handheld console named WonderSwan, which was created by the designer of the original Game Boy, Gunpei Yokoi. As a launch game for the WS, the puzzle game named Gunpey, after the creator of WS, did well on the Japanese markets. A few months later, a version for the PlayStation was released, plus a remake for the WonderSwan Color. In spite of the efforts, Gunpey never managed to gain the slightest amount of popularity in Europe and USA... until now.
Probably a big fan of the game, Tetsuya Mizuguchi - the designer behind innovative puzzle games such as Rez and Lumines - decided to produce a remake. Initially named Gunpey-R, the new game is published for both PSP and DS. The gameplay remains the same, but the presentation Q Entertainment attached is quite unique, even though it uses the same "skin setup" as Lumines.
The mechanics of the game are quite simple. Four types of tiles are rising from the bottom of the screen, each with a line running vertically across: bottom-left to upper-right diagonally, bottom-right to upper-left diagonally, and two other pieces with a line running across either the top or bottom of the tile. You use the D pad to move a two-block cursor onto the tiles and a face button to move the tile from one block to the other, while tapping the X button brings the lines up. You need to arrange them so the lines on the pieces make an unbroken chain from one side of the well to another, which will disappear. Every few seconds a new line of pieces rises up from the bottom, and if a lined tile is shoved over the top of the well the game is over. Creating lines is quite easy, as with a bit of practice spectacular structures can be made. Pieces can only be moved vertically with the cursor, and most of the tension in Gunpey comes from waiting for a piece to appear in the one empty column on the screen. Though the tiles are rising from the bottom at a steady pace, only a couple of pieces appear at a time in the well's five columns. While this may give you the chance of making weird structures with branching lines, it can get a bit nerve-wrecking waiting for the last column to give up the necessary piece to make the unbroken chain. It can also cause a lot of time spent in damage control, as orphan pieces unable to be connected to the current structure wander their way to the top, which can make you lose easily... You can also make easily mistakes when connecting tiles, but there's always enough time for damage control.
The more lines you connect, the higher the score. This encourages the player to create some of the most eccentric structures as possible, making very high scores in the same time. Completed bars remain on screen for approximately 5 seconds, allowing more savvy players to make additional lines, creating two- or three-line combos for even more high-scoring results. There are around 40 levels/skins, each of them being radically different in visuals and music. While they're very stylish and great fun to play on, the levels can only be unlocked in standard play mode by completing them in order. Beating a level isn't done by points or combos - instead it's all about surviving until the apparently arbitrary end of the round. The big problem is that the rounds can take a very long time to complete. In average, you can complete a stage in at least 5 minutes and complete the entire Standard mode in three or four hours - if you have ninja skills. As a result, you can get tired and lose focus after such long periods of concentration.
Along the Challenge mode there's a double skin - with two concurrent game grids, each with a different skin; you can switch back and forth between them using the PSP's shoulder buttons -, a 10x10 mode - in which the grid is twice as wide as everywhere else - and a time attack mode, which isn't as satisfying because of the slow start. There's also a versus mode, but here you can't fight with the artificial intelligence. All in all, the additional gameplay modes are rather diversions meant to determine you to keep coming back for more fun.
Once the initial learning phase is over, Gunpey can become addictive, becoming harder and harder to put it down. There's only one default level of difficulty, but, unlike other puzzle games, it is rewarding. The game is becoming harder and harder towards the end, but it never feels too frustrating. Without the presentation, Gunpey remains a solid, interesting puzzle game. With the Lumines-inspired design, Gunpey is a real feast for your senses. Like Lumines, Gunpey features various colorful, creative and neon-glowing skins that lend each new level a completely different look and feel. In spite of the obvious inspiration sources, Gunpey's style still manages to be unique. And there are lots of skins like "The Afroman in Friday's Café" or "Lazy Kangaroo" which manage to be very, very bizarre. If this eclectic collection of skins is indeed "eye candy", skins like "Jerky Animation" - which is covered with blue and orange squares that flow across the screen - manage to be quite distracting and not very attractive. Sometimes you'll probably want to play on a plain background, but most of the times you'll find the art style of Gunpey fascinating, if not extraordinary.
The soundtrack - which changes from one skin to another - is composed of electronic music, which is an inspired choice. Not everyone might like it, but if you are into this kind of music, you'll love the catchiness of certain songs, such as "Slapstick" from "Lazy Kangaroo". Anyway, the loops aren't as repetitive as most electronic music. Either you like it or not, you must admit that electronic music matches the graphical style very well.
If you played Lumines before, you might think that the progress is saved automatically. However, the developers did not included an autosave function, so you have to save your game manually
Overall, Gunpey is a little jem, a unique puzzle game for PlayStation Portable. Its eccentric style won't be adored by the masses, but the experienced puzzle players Q Entertainment targeted will. Line puzzles are a refreshing change from the mass of block-based puzzles. If you are sick of playing Tetris or Bejeweled clones, give Gunpey a shot.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 01/22/07
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