Back in 1996, Nintendo released a North American version of their puzzle game, Panel de Pon. You may remember it as Tetris Attack. You may also recognize this game as Pokemon Puzzle League on the Nintendo 64 or Planet Puzzle League on the Nintendo DS. If you do, awesome.
It’s a shame that Tetris Attack/Puzzle League have never taken off in North America, because this series of puzzle games are, in my opinion, the best puzzle games that aren’t regular Tetris.
If you came to Tetris Attack looking for a Tetris game, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Tetris Attack is a completely different beast. At its core, its a match three puzzle game where blocks rise from the bottom of the screen and your objective is to clear those blocks by matching them in lines of three or more. If your stack of blocks hits the top of the screen, you lose.
This in itself doesn’t sound revolutionary. However, what set this game apart were the ability to push blocks up, combos, and some of the best puzzle multiplayer in the business. If you wanted more blocks on the screen, you could hit a button to quickly push rows of blocks onto the playing field. Why would you want to do that? More blocks on the screen means more blocks to string together fat combos, which in turn led to junk blocks in your opponents field.
This back-and-forth of managing your block height, combos and junk blocks makes for some of the most frenetic multiplayer action you’ll find in a puzzle game. Even though your fingers need to move at lighting speeds, you still need to constantly assess the playing field and think of ways to either clear your opponent’s junk or create big combos to drop tons of junk on your opponent.
My brother and I have spent so many hours battling each other in all of the Tetris Attack/Puzzle League iterations. The Super Nintendo version will always hold a soft spot in my heart for being the first of this series I ever played. The one unique quirk about it is that during its most intense versus moments, the game would suffer slowdown. In most games, this is bad. In Tetris Attack, it actually made the game a bit easier to play. When the Pokemon version came out for the Nintendo 64, slowdown was actually a feature you could turn on in order to make the game a bit easier to play.
You’re best bet of playing this now might be to grab the DS version, which is fantastic. The only problem is that the game has long since gone out of print and the initial run wasn’t that big to begin with. eBay might be your best course of action. Regardless of which version you try, they’re all great and I can’t recommend them enough.