The Puyo Puyo series has been known by many names in the US, the most notable being Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine for the Genesis and Kirby's Avalanche for the SNES. This long-running series of puzzle games has appeared on just about every major system, and now the Dreamcast is no exception.
Puyo Puyo 4 sticks to the same basic premise as every other Puyo Puyo game out there: Different colored blobs fall, two at a time, into your well. You must connect four or more similarly colored blobs together to clear them. It doesn't matter how they are lined up. This freedom allows for some massive chain reactions. And it's these chain reactions that form the basis for the game's multiplayer modes, as the more blobs you clear at once, the more clear blobs you'll drop into your opponents' wells. These clear blobs are useless, and only disappear if a cluster of blobs is popped directly next to them.
While much of the game remains identical to previous incarnations of the game, there's one thing that makes it vastly different - the type of different that has some Puyo purists up in arms. In the game's main one- and two-player modes, you can build up and execute a special attack. Each of the game's characters has a different attack. Some remove the clear blobs from your well, while others convert the clear blobs into random-colored blobs that sometimes form huge chain reactions. Other special moves include a blob randomizer and a shield, which prevents any clear blobs from landing on your side until the shield timer runs out. When used properly, the specials can dramatically change the pace and outcome of a match. The three- and four-player game lacks this special attack, but the frantic nature of three- and four-player action more than makes up for that drawback.
Graphics aren't really ever a huge factor in puzzle games, but for what it's worth, Puyo Puyo 4 looks great. The characters, which stand in the middle of the screen Puzzle Fighter-style, all look very nice. Also, the effects during the special attacks are great. The game's music is another high point. The poppy, catchy tunes don't become tiresome, even during long matches. The game is also chock-full of high-pitched Japanese screaming, which accompanies most of the game's actions.
It would be a real shame if this game doesn't come to the US in some form. The game is great fun, and it delivers the same style of competitive puzzle action as games like Baku Baku and Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo. It's definitely a worthy and much-needed update to a long-running series.