There are already three puzzle games for the DS that make liberal use of the touch screen. Meteos is the third, and this is the puzzle game killer. Not only does it feature some of the most simplistic gameplay of any “blocks falling” puzzler to date, it offers an incredible variety of ways to play, and that keeps it fresh no matter how many months you’ve lost to it.
It’s as easy as lining up three blocks in a row by individually moving them vertically (and only vertically). Of course, it’s not that simple. It never is. Simply lining them up will not always eliminate them. In Meteos, you’re attacking planets with these brightly colored objects. If you the blocks don’t have enough power to make it out of the atmosphere, they fall back down. If there’s still some maneuvering left after a launch, keep working on it in the air.
It’s that simple change from the formula that makes Meteos so engrossing. Simply moving three blocks is never enough. Movement requires involved thought, and that’s the hook this game requires. You can play this title any way that interests you, and about any way you can imagine. The unlockables here are seemingly endless.
You traverse through space, much like the classic shooter Darius, by picking a path through the solar system. You’ll fight off the planets in your way, and hopefully conquer Meteos itself. Unlike so many other games, this one features unlockable content that is actually useful. Power-ups appear in game once unlocked, and it’s the equivalent of earning experience. The more you play (and the better you play), the more the odds swing in your favor.
You can’t just beat the game and start reaping the rewards either. You need specific pieces cleared in battle to create these items. This makes sure you experiment with the game and try out everything it has to offer, simply to earn more pieces. It’s a brilliant mechanic, and yet another way you’re forced to keep the stylus in hand.
Obviously, the touch screen here is critical. Its accuracy does occasionally seem a bit off, as pieces don’t move when you think they should. Rarely will it cost you a game. The graphics, while tolerable for the most part, do find a way to become aggravating. Some of the stages feature oddball pieces that are hard to discern from each other, especially when the animation goes overboard. The top screen can be distracting, whether it’s showing the opponents move or the attack on the enemy (completely up to the player).
The only other possible gripe is the lack of a save or pause during those long journeys. Traveling from one side of a galaxy to another takes time. Without the ability to save at any time or even at a checkpoint, it doesn’t seem very well suited for the road. There is plenty to do in order to keep the player occupied. Unless you’re desperate to planet hop, you’ll still have something you know you can handle.
Audio here is spectacular, suited to the theme and space. Actually, more than a few tracks seem lifted from the original SNES Star Fox. When the challenge is nearing the end due to stacked pieces, it becomes rightfully stressful, to both alert and annoy. While audio isn’t necessary to enjoy the game, it can add to the experience.
Still young, this year has one of its best games in Meteos, and this could undoubtedly end up as one of the best for the console when it’s gone. You cannot claim to have played a DS until this game has been experienced. It’s a magnificent piece of software, and it can contend with anything the home consoles have coming.