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"Finally, after yet another screen of stairs, the three of them reach the top. By now, both Mr. T and Tita are worn out. But not Bitch, because RPG heroes never get tired."
     -Jeanne, Final Fantasy VII Part 5




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12.11.02 :: Super Puzzle Mailbag I Turbo

The opinions in this letters column aren't necessarily those of Jeanne Rubbo, owner of videogamerecaps.com. Even so, Jeanne owns *us* and has locked us in a dark closet with Tidus and Rinoa until we think of something funny. HELP! In the meantime, send in your comments, queries, whining, flames, spam, opinions, facts, opinions that you think are facts, and general idiocy to mailbag@videogamerecaps.com

Welcome back to the column with the nonstop Monkey Ball Action (or not), the VGR Mailbag! This week we're discussing the best and worst of the puzzler genre. Want to know what it is at the heart of all puzzle games that keeps us playing into the wee hours of the morning, unable to get enough, convulsing like sex-deprived Hugh Hefners? Prepare for button-mashing, up-all-night, crack-cocaine fun! Read on!

I'm not going to touch your Monkey Balls
Gad, that sounded really dirty.... my worst puzzle game experience was Brain Lord for the SNES.... It was an RPG game of sorts but instead of random battles it had random puzzles. It was the worst game. They lied to you! Right in the instructions it tells you what each button on the hand controller does and it said that the "Delta" button was not used in the game. Okay, fine. So you go through the dungeons, finding keys, hidden switches, etc. to unlock levels and you finally get at this one room where no key will work on the door, there are no hidden switches, dashing into the door or piling bombs against it don't knock it down. I went out and searched the whole dungeon top and bottom for the key five times with no success.

So guess what? The only way to open the door was to press that "Delta" button that the instructions said was not used in the game! Lying b*st*rds!!!! Arrrgh. So then I finally get to the final Boss. Guess what, it is one of those games where they have three sets of mini-bosses that are tougher than anything else in the game. The kind that keeps resurrecting themselves in more powerful forms and make you use up all you magic spells, bombs and healing items and take you down to two life points. Get through them and find the final boss. Guess what, he has 3 lives as well. And not having any healing items or spells left or powerful bombs, etc., of course, he wipes out my party.... I forgot to mention that there are no opportunities to save your game after any of the final sub-boss battles, so you have to do the whole thing all over again....

Except, dear game designers..... It. Was. Not. That. Fun. I think I will dig Brain Lord out of the closet and jump up and down on the cartridge, do unspeakable things to the fragments, and mail the remains back to the company that created it. Did I mention I hate that game?

CS, I'd like to be the first to congratulate you on embracing the wonder that is PARAGRAPH BREAKS. As a special prize, we've brought Tidus here to beat himself over the head with a baseball bat, for your enjoyment.

...Okay, everyone will probably enjoy it.

To your letter: I'll have to remember that name so I never consider playing the game. Hellish, that sounds.

-LC

Cat Slave, I?ve got to hand it to you. When it comes to finding games I?ve never even heard of, let alone played, you excel. I can sympathize with you regarding the delta button snafu, however. I?ve played a game or two where it seems the instruction manual was translated to English from Japanese by a Korean-speaking Dutch rice-farmer in the hinterlands of Cambodia. Had I been in your place, I too would have exhausted all the ?allowed? moves in my repertoire before either: A. Throwing down the controller in disgust. or B. Pushing every single button combination I could think of while screaming ?Open, dammit!! Why won?t you open!!? Of course, if and when I did get the door open, I would?ve been frustrated and pissy for the rest of the time I played the game, which would only get me annihilated by one of the mini-bosses. Serves me right for ever reading the manual. Let that be a lesson to you, Cat Slave! Ignore the instructions! Be free! Push all the buttons and shed your inhibitions! Wait a sec. That last line sounded sick, even for me. Never mind.

-AG

The dangers of addiction
Dear AG and LC

I'm not very good at writing letters (as AG can attest), but here goes.

AG and I have a good friend (Stephen) that we don't get to see very often. As some of you forum posters know, this is AG?s and my ?little brother.? So for my birthday we invited him over for dinner and a night of video game playing. Stephen brought a game for my birthday. It was Devil Dice. In this game you get to be a little devil that has to turn dice over and arrange the number on the dice with the same number of dice. For instance if you are trying to clear a set of fives, you have to turn over or slide 5 dice with the number 5 showing together to clear them. If you are playing a 2 player game you can steal the other players dice to mess them up.

Neither of us had played this game before. So I fired up the Playstation and we started to play. After about an hour of playing AG started dinner. At first we were playing against each other, then we started to help each other to see how long we could keep the game going. Another hour passed, AG made us pause the game so we could eat. Back to playing. After the third hour passed we both decided to quit. We had played so long both Stephen's eyes and mine were burning and hurting. We were both screaming "No more!"

Stephen also let me borrow Super Puzzle Fighter II. Then, three or four months later, Stephen is over for another visit with AG and myself. I said, "Stephen, do you want to play some Puzzle Fighter". Stephen was like "You're going down, you can't win against me." He got so mad when he could not beat me. Stephen was like "No man, we're gonna have a rematch." And we did, two or three times.

Well I guess that's about it. Sorry it's not more exciting.

HisGrouchyness

Oh, HG, you?re exciting enough for me. I treasure the memories of the two of you, huddled over your controllers, pushing buttons like all get out. After Hour 2 or so, you both began to have this wild, ?mad scientist? look in your eyes, and after Hour 3 I could?ve sword I saw a tear or two trickle from your tired little orbs. I seem to recall that you eventually did play another game of Devil Dice with our beloved sibling that night, only to collapse an hour later, too tired to speak. It certainly was a birthday to remember, right up there with last year?s birthday when I made you Pasta Carbonara and the two of you spent the evening on a killing rampage in GTA3.

-AG

I have no idea why, but the premise of this Devil Dice game reminds me of the 7-Up Spot game for the NES. I dunno. The Spot kinda looks like a devil, what with the sinister shades and the red pigment.

I've similarly whored myself to the God of All Puzzle Games, Bust-A-Move (or Bubble Puzzle, if you prefer). I can't even count the number of times I've gone without even remembering to eat, drink or sleep because I had to try to beat that G bastard just one more time. And the pulleys. Jesus God, THE PULLEYS!

-LC

Yoshi is a butthole
All hail the Mailbag Divas!

So, the topic of the week is puzzle games. Unfortunately, I'm not quite familiar with this particular genre, seeing how it's mostly Tetris clones (though I will check Super Monkey Ball as soon as I get the GameCube). There is one puzzle game that I've been playing these past few weeks, though: Tetris Attack.

Tetris Attack, as some of you may know, mixes the characters from Yoshi's Island (now available for Gameboy Advance *PLUG!*) with the game mechanics of Panel de Pon (an obscure Japanese puzzle for the SFC). Basically, you switch blocks around in hopes of matching 3 or more blocks of a certain type. There are also the basic Tetris-esque rules: the stack is consistently rising except for when you make a match, matching blocks disappear, and the more matching blocks you can get at once the longer the stack stays still.

I don't know how I got addicted to this game; maybe because the game designers who first designed Panel de Pon instilled Mental Crack (TM) in it, maybe because of my fondness for Yoshi's Island, what matters is that I've spent a good hour or two cracking the Puzzle Mode and taking on the CPU in the Versus Mode.

[Note: Pok?mon Puzzle League for the N64 also uses the Panel de Pon game mechanics. Try it out for a rental at least, why don't you?]

~Quartz Falcon

QF, now that you mention it, I seem to recall many games that use similar game mechanics to Panel de Pon. One that comes close is HG?s Devil Dice mentioned above, only the playing field is horizontal, rather than vertical. It?s strange the fascination puzzle games seem to hold for us. They?re usually simply made games, with a straightforward interface, as in ?line up three identical boxes, items, dylithium crystals to clear them?, and there are usually help and hinder items thrown into the mix as well, like bombs, steel crates, etc. So what is it that keeps us playing for hour upon hour, finally screaming in pain as our eyes dry out? Why do we sometimes dream of the damned game screen with it?s cute little mascot or freaky backgrounds? What is it that causes us to play these games until dementia sets in? Why is there a yellow red-bottomed baboon in my room? *ahem* Sorry about that. Now, if you?ll excuse me, I need to go back and play more Super Duper Holy Crap It?s Fantastic Bust-a-Move. One more bubble and I break the record! Squee!!

-AG

You bring up the Mental Crack?, and I'm sure Panel de Pon is full of it (I've never had the pleasure of playing that one), but really, part of what sells puzzle games is their Crack-a-Liciousness?. Yes, the puzzles themselves are addictive, but the presentation is the kicker. Busting balls (*snicker*) open with two lizards named Bub and Bob, and, oh yes, all their Acid Trip Friends. Collecting bananas with a monkey inside a translucent ball. Let me repeat that. IT'S A MONKEY INSIDE A BALL. Tossing pills into a giant bottle to eat up germs and viruses. Puzzlers need to be simple at heart, because the game designers are so drugged up from "brainstorming" for the game's premises that they can't do the very complex.

-LC


With all the maniacal laughter hitting the mailbag these days, we thought we'd take the time to give props to those who never get any respect - the villains. Be it Bowser, Mother Brain or Seymour the Pedophile, you just can't have a good action/adventure game or RPG without someone to defeat. So, let's hear it for the baddies! Who's your all-time favorite game villain? Who royally sucks at the world domination schtick and deserves to have their silly butt kicked by Dudley Do-Right? Tells us by Tuesday, December 17 at 8:00 p.m. EST. Otherwise, we're sending Kefka to your house for a sleepover. Ahahahahaaa!! Whoooo!!

- AG and Lita-chan

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