Guru Logic Champ (Gameboy Advance) Compile
This is, by far, the best puzzle game I have ever played. Created by the sadly deceased Compile this game never saw a western release.
The premise is deceptively simple: a board consists of a grid with blocks on it and can be rotated in 90 degree increments. At the bottom is your cannon which you move left and right. You can shoot blocks, if there are any spare, or suck up blocks from the play field. The aim is to fill the predetermined empty squares to complete a little picture.
Interspersed are useless but utterly charming little vignettes where the two duck-like heroes help some citizens with their problems, being a lost tap, dandruff problems that are causing traffic jams or fixing the dentist’s mecha-robot's drill-bit. You’ll find yourself playing just one more puzzle just to see what crazy thing they get up to next.
There is little replayability, apart from a fastest time ranking, but with over 300 puzzles you’ll get your money’s worth for sure. This is by far The Best Puzzle Game Ever Created.
The game has been, um, hommaged recently by Nuclide/Popcap as Pixelus, and though it’s a fun game in itself it doesn’t have the many obstacle blocks the original has and its art design, though cute, doesn’t live up to the utter insanity of Guru Logic Champ. A must for anyone with a brain that desires flexing!
Playability: The biggest problem will be getting hold of a copy but after that it’s Easy Street. The GBA and its younger brethren are not region locked and you can easily get by without Japanese ability. The menus are very simple and you’ll soon figure out which option means “restart”. The game saves automatically between puzzles and the tutorial is an easy follow-my-example type affair. Infinitely enjoyable!
Try it! There is a 10 level PC demo available here, as well as a review. There were about three separate demos at one point but I cannot track the other two down. It was the same demo but with 10 different puzzles in each.
Kururin Squash! （GameCube） Eighting
Kururin was a special little GBA game that not enough people played. Kururin Squash is the home console version and though not noticeably different in essence it’s still a worthy purchase, especially as it was released at the mid-price range in Japan. The gameplay is as twitchy as the handheld original, where you move a rotating sick through increasingly elaborate mazes while avoiding the walls and other obstacles. An incredibly simple premise that leads to addictive twitchy and compulsive play
Though there is no multiplayer mode here, the game is a great single player experience with extra extended levels for those who want to dare try for the hidden key which in turn leads to special unlockable levels. There are boss levels, rail levels, upgrades for your vehicle, etc.
The graphics are as cute as you’d expect and the presentation fits perfectly. More peo;ple should play this as I am personally dying for a Wii version. I can just imagine how much frustrating fun that would be!
Playability: You’ll need a modded Gamecube or Datel’s Freeloader to be able to play it. The game itself is simple enough and none of the menus should be too difficult to figure out without Japanese ability.
Though Mr. Driller isn’t unknown to western audiences this particular outing never made it to foreign shores. I once had a chat with a Namco localiser who told me he had begged his boss to let him translate this game; he would even do it in his spare time, such was his righteous love for the product. The boss, however, declined; as, with all things great and misunderstood, the game never sold well enough to even consider starting a localised version. This is too bad because this version is by far the very best Mr. Driller game of all.
One thing you need to know before I continue though is that this game is HARD, as in proper hard-core, hair-tearingly hard. But in a good way. Each game mode has four play levels, which I have termed “Difficult”, “Impossible”, “KILL ME!” and “Special”. As you can’t progress to the next level until you’ve cleared all modes of the preceding difficulty this “Special” mode has remained elusive to me so far. I think it’s simply an “unlimited depth, instant death” mode for all the different types of game.
The different play modes are as follows:
1. World Drill Tour: Your usual Mr. Driller type affair, except that you can use several different characters, each with their own very slightly differing stats which strangely leads to wildly varying play styles.
2. Star Driller: This is basically Mr. Driller Plus Alpha. The premise remains the same apart from some extra blocks that unleash special events or bonuses during play.
3. Drindy Adventure: The similarity to Indy doesn’t end with the name. In fact, there is a distinct flavour of the good old Rick Dangerous about this mode. You need to collect golden statuettes and make your way to the bottom while avoiding spikes and rolling boulders. This is probably my favourite mode.
4. Horror Night House: Another excellent variation on the theme. Ghosts fly around and towards you. You need to collect a bottle of holy water with which to freeze the ghosts in place. If you then drill the block they are in they will die and drop crystals. You need to collect a certain number of crystals to clear the level.
5. Hole of Druaga: This is possibly the most inventive re-imagining of the game. There are several connected pits to which you warp via doors. Your energy drops steadily so you must hurry and pick up items that are revealed when popping blocks. There are a whole host of items, some that give you energy, some that destroy a certain colour of blocks, etc. At the bottom of one pit is a dragon boss (BOSS!) which you must drill to death for the key to the final pit where the final boss awaits. This one can be defeated by destroying a large enough number of bricks at once, which is where the iems come in handy. All in all a difficult but fun mode.
When playing and invariably failing play modes you get given points which you can collect and trade in for extras, like extra lives or shields. Except that these only count for the level of difficulty you are playing. Once you progress to the next difficulty level you need to start from scratch, requiring a lot of replay if you need extra help to survive the increasingly impossible challenges. On top of that there are unlockable but useless items and trophies and a multiplayer mode.
Though there have been some excellent handheld versions of the game, this home console version simply shines out as the best. It even let’s you link up with one of the GBA games for extra unlockable fun.
Playability: You’ll need a modded Gamecube or Datel’s Freeloader to be able to play it. Though there are quite a few menus they aren’t hard to navigate and all but one of the game modes require no Japanese ability. Where it does, in “Hole of Druaga”, you’re stuffed, though, as the inventory list of items to use is in Japanese only. Still, with a little experimenting you’ll be able to find out what does what, eventually.It’s worth it for the overall experience.
With all the dross that does get localised and released in the west it’s almost criminal that these little gems were overlooked. That said, if it didn’t make financial sense to release it in the Americas and Europe all my fanboy gushing can’t really change the situation. These games weren’t bought by droves of people and I guess that is where the real crime lies. I supposed you can’t please all of the people etc. Do yourself a favour and try to find and play these games.
If I find a cheap second hand copy of, say, Guru Logic Champ I might organize a Japanmanship giveaway contest of sorts, but don’t hold your breath as I don’t really enjoy going to all the way to Akihabara.