One of the best DS games yet, Meteos delivers a unique and successful twist on the puzzle game formula.
- Innovatively designed, crazy-fast puzzle action
- Great fun in single-player and multiplayer
- Multiplayer requires only one cartridge
- Universe-about-to-be-annihilated premise always a plus in a puzzle game.
- Some interface elements a little hard to see
- Fun but formulaic gameplay might not hold your interest indefinitely.
The fate of the entire universe straight-up hangs in the balance in Meteos, a frenetic, fun, and innovative puzzle game exclusively for the Nintendo DS. It's somehow strangely appropriate that the game is the work of none other than Q Entertainment, designer Tetsuya Mizuguchi's studio that also gave the PSP one of its first, best titles, the puzzle game Lumines. After all, the incredibly hectic and cleverly envisioned Meteos is pretty much a perfect counterpart to the trancelike, rather relaxing feel of Q Entertainment's previous game. And on its own terms, Meteos offers up a great, original experience that's plenty of fun whether you play it against the computer or against some friends.
Not many puzzle games bother with storylines, but Meteos doesn't settle for convention. In fact, the game is so bold as to deftly mix cute, colorful graphics with the threat of a science fiction apocalypse in its entertainingly epic introductory cutscene. The planet Meteo, a seething eye-shaped thing that could probably stare Sauron down, spews forth a deadly rain of fragments called meteos, which annihilate practically everything that gets in their way. By some chance, a planet survives the assault as several like-colored meteos latch together and fly off from whence they came. Now various extraterrestrial races must fight to protect their homes by firing the meteos raining down on them back toward their source. And a magnificent spacecraft--the Metamo Ark--is constructed to bring the fight back to Meteo's turf. Here's mud in your eye, you good-for-nothing planet-busting alien bastard.
The premise of the game figures into the action more than you might expect, especially in "star trip," Meteos' main single-player mode. In it, you fight your way through successive stages before finally squaring off against Meteo, after which you're treated to any number of cool little endings. The premise of Meteos justifies the game's hectic pace as well as the outstandingly over-the-top soundtrack. It helps draw you into a game that's just as creative in how it plays as it is in how it presents itself.
In a typical game of Meteos, you'll spend your time keeping a sharp eye on the DS's bottom screen, in which multicolored meteos rain down constantly, piling up higher and higher. Don't mistake this for another Tetris or Puyo Puyo clone, though. For one thing, you can't actually control the meteos as they fall, as you might expect from a typical puzzle game. And once they've landed, all you can do is shift them vertically up or down through the stack they're in. You need to do this because, if three like-colored meteos are placed adjacent to each other either in a row or in a column, they fire off like rockets, launching themselves and all the meteos stacked on top of them up toward the top of the screen. You're constantly trying to stop the meteos from piling too high by blasting them back up into space. Theoretically, the more meteos pile up, the easier it is to find a nearby few that can be matched up and blasted away. The thing is, the more meteos pile up, the more momentum you'll need to push them the heck off the screen. This is a formula that sets up a near-nonstop string of life-or-death near-misses.
The many different levels in Meteos represent all the different planets that have come under fire. Each planet has its own unique properties and other twists you'll just have to get a feel for. It doesn't take long to notice that different planets seem to have a different sense of gravitational pull, for example. On some planets, you may need to fire off your meteos stacks using consecutive launches, forming triplicates multiple times within a single stack to gather enough steam to launch them away. But on other planets, the meteos will jettison offscreen with much less effort on your part, though they may rain down a lot faster and into a much smaller playing field. While the tone of the different levels in Meteos is often distinctly different, make no mistake--the pacing of the game basically ranges from ridiculous speed to ludicrous speed as you're constantly trying to prevent your planet's annihilation.