Puchi Puchi Virus Hands-On

We try our hand at battling off the zany puchirus epidemic in Nippon Ichi's upcoming handheld puzzler.

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If you're looking for a fast-paced and unique puzzle game with a heavy dose of the wacky, Nippon Ichi's upcoming Puchi Puchi Virus for the Nintendo DS may be just what the doctor ordered. As the opening cinematic reveals, it's up to the brilliant Dr. Kevin A. Longfellow to save his world from the dreaded "puchirus," a bizarre new disease that literally turns people into party animals.

Things can get out of control really fast if you're not vigilant.
Things can get out of control really fast if you're not vigilant.

As the inventor of a device that can cure the virus--by reportedly exposing carriers to dangerously high doses of pure awesome--Kevin has a long list of patients waiting for treatment. Each one is a self-contained puzzle that takes the form of a grid of hexagonal tiles that gradually fills with different-colored strains of the virus. Using the DS's stylus, you must select three similar viruses to form a triangle, and then tap a selected virus to clear out that triangle. But be warned, because if you don't clear out a virus fast enough or are too slow to get rid of a selected group, they will turn to stone and you won't be able to select them.

However, selected triangles are good for more than clearing out viruses, and are in fact the source of the real strategy in Puchi Puchi Virus. If any viruses are trapped inside a triangle, they will be selected, and if you're able to pair them up with others to generate additional layered triangles, they will clear out together in a chain for tons of bonus points. If any stone viruses happen to be trapped inside a triangle when it's cleared out, the stone condition will be reversed, but if normal viruses are trapped and not properly cleared, they will turn to stone. As you can imagine, when the board fills up, the game can rapidly become quite chaotic.

Each puzzle has its own winning condition, which ranges from the straightforward "score 3350 points in three minutes" to the more complicated "create three five-virus chains in three minutes." Failure will occur if you're either unable to meet the completion requirement within the allotted time or if the entire grid fills with stone viruses.

You will learn more about your patients than you probably wanted to know.
You will learn more about your patients than you probably wanted to know.

Perhaps the best parts of the game are the patient-profile cards you earn upon successfully completing treatment. These cards feature colorful and delightful artwork of the infected animal along with its completely bizarre name and a note about its habits. Some of the patients you'll encounter include Binoceros, who enjoys trying to use Morse code and binary to make new friends (to little success), and Liar Downer, who learns valuable secrets by faking sleep. Besides their comedic value, these profiles let you replay finished puzzles in an effort to master them by going above and beyond their completion requirement, upon which Kevin's renown is increased and more patients are attracted to his practice.

Besides the single-player story, Puchi Puchi Virus features wireless multiplayer battle modes that support both single-cart sharing and multicart play, and on top of that, you can share a demo of the game wirelessly with your friends.

With a great translation and an original game mechanic going for it, Puchi Puchi Virus is currently looking like an attractive puzzler with a lot of potential. Expect the final word in our review when the game ships in late spring.

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