Pokémon Puzzle League catches the best traits of Tetris Attack
The zenith of Pokémon came rather startling and early, somewhere in the heady days of 2000. After all, by then, Pokémon was in the zeitgeist as a video game and cultural phenomenon. You could stick your arms out in any direction and hit Pokémon products. So, it goes then, that the video game sphere received its share of the wealth after the initial fervor wound down. At this point, however, the Nintendo 64 was on its last legs and received a few games bearing the Pocket Monster license. Out of that smoke arose Pokémon Puzzle League.
Pokémon Puzzle League isn’t a terrible use of the license. Sure, it’s gratuitous Pokémon everywhere, but it’s not a bad puzzling game in general. The premise is simple: Take what you already know about Tetris Attack and slap Pokémon on it. That’s all Pokémon Puzzle League is, and since Tetris Attack isn’t terrible either, Puzzle League benefits from a solid foundation. The mechanics remain the same except there’s Pokémon involved, and the Pokémon don’t really affect anything beyond aesthetics.
Pokémon Puzzle League feels like a Tetris Attack clone ought to feel. The puzzling mechanics are tight and quick movement is clean and precise, even with the wonky N64 controller. This is one of the first Tetris Attack clones produced, but it carries on the tradition of tight, good puzzling gameplay well. There is a bounty of modes to play, including standard 2D and 3D line clearing, a 1P stadium mode and versus. The variety makes for a good rollicking time and fills up playtime with quality offerings. And, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say something about the difficulty level. If you’re not prepared and don’t understand the mechanics of Tetris Attack, you will get wrecked even on the easy level. The AI does not play around and while it’s part of the charm of Puzzle League, it can be daunting to have to replay levels multiple times on Normal or even Easy difficulty level because the AI caught a lucky break.
But what you came here for, let’s be honest, is the Pokémon presentation. Thankfully, this is the draw. It’s a buffet of Pokémon-dom, with all of the anime favorite characters thrown in as well as the main gym leaders and Elite Four from the games at higher difficulty levels. The Pokémon represented here are all using the 4Kids voicework and the anime artstyle, so hopefully you like the anime enough that you don’t mind that it’s based on the Pokémon Original Series generations. The soundtrack is appropriately Pokémon, which means the music is good. There are a few bangers on the soundtrack that make it a must download, including most of the Team Rocket themes, Lorelei’s theme, and Professor Oak’s theme. Despite this being cartridge-based, Puzzle League doesn’t skimp on the sound quality.
Pokémon Puzzle League is a joy to learn and get serious about even if you remotely like Tetris Attack. It’s got the Pokémon aesthetic from the successful anime and handheld games, a nice Pokémon-centric soundtrack and a fun, challenging puzzle mechanic that’s begging to be explored. If you love Pokémon and puzzle games, cast your Master ball out to catch this one.