Friday 6 March 2020

Puzzle Link (Neo Geo Pocket Color review)

Developer: Yumekobo
Publisher: SNK
Released: 1999

Puzzle Link is a puzzle game that was originally released in 1998 on the B&W Neo Geo Pocket handheld console.

The object is to fire connectors to link matching targets together in order to remove them from the playfield. Three modes are available which are Normal (survive long enough and then link both 'C' icons to complete the round), Clear All (remove all on-screen targets) and Battle (compete against a friend). The fast-paced action is top-notch and learning to link combos together is key; this is especially true in Stage 4-5 which only provides you with two different block types for some serious chain explosions as they continually race towards you. These explosions are extremely satisfying, particularly when you're close to death, only to be saved by a massive chain that destroys almost the entire playfield! In Normal mode, simply managing to clear the screen would be nerve-wracking enough, but the need to last until both 'C' icons appear creates an intense atmosphere that's both stressful and fun! Once both icons are visible there's always a mad dash to link them together which adds a nice layer of variety and strategy to the end of each round. The gameplay is addictive on its own, but it also breeds a 'just one more go' mentality for a couple of reasons. Firstly, there's the fact that each stage is split up into five bite-sized rounds that need to be fully completed in order to unlock the next stage. Secondly, Pokemon style character cards can be earned by beating the round timer, giving you added incentive to keep playing to collect all 91 of them. It's all very cleverly implemented and rewarding, and even when you've unlocked everything there's still the exceptional Battle mode for increased replayability.

Puzzle Link is an addictive take on the genre and its fresh, innovative approach results in some enjoyable gameplay that can last for hours at a time. There's plenty of content to sink your teeth into and the character card rewards for beating rounds is a continual nudge to keep playing.

Random trivia: A sequel called Puzzle Link 2 was released on the Neo Geo Pocket Color in 2000.

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