Monday 13 July 2020

Palamedes (NES review)

Developer: Natsume
Publisher: HOT-B
Released: 1990

Palamedes is a puzzle game that was originally released in the Arcades in 1990.

The object is to eliminate the lines of descending dice before they reach the bottom of the playfield. To do this, you need to create combinations of up to six dice (e.g. three pairs, six of a kind, etc) and then press Down on the d-pad to wipe out entire lines. The A button shoots the dice upwards, while B changes the coloured face number (between 1-6). The gameplay is an intriguing mix of Puzzle Bobble (1994, Arcades) and the card game Blackjack, and a great aspect is how much freedom you have in tackling stages; for example, while you can pretty much succeed in every stage by lining up three pairs (which clears three lines), the game will occasionally give you no option but to take a single colour. This forces you to switch strategies and grab different 'hands' on the fly which is highly engaging. On the flip-side, expert players can also reward themselves by attempting more challenging moves such as obtaining a 1-6 hand, and in this sense it almost becomes a 'game within a game'. A subtle, but clever mechanic is the ability to switch the colour of your dice when lines are currently being removed from the playfield; this might sound like a minor point, but in a game where every second counts it's great to be able to think ahead and start putting your next plan into action while waiting for lines to be cleared. The controls are spot-on, but I do wish there was a way to cycle through the dice in reverse order as it's easy to accidentally skip over the one you need, leading to wasted time. I also would liked to have seen more content in the 1-Player mode, as 20 stages is rather stingy.

Palamedes offers a fresh and exciting approach to the puzzle genre and it successfully manages to blend several styles into a fun, coherent game. It is perhaps a little too light on content in 1-Player mode, but what's here is top-notch and the game's interesting mechanics will likely keep you occupied for longer than expected.

Random trivia: A portable Nintendo Game Boy version was released in 1991.

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