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RELEASE DATE (JP): March 19, 1993 GENRE: Puzzle
// review by FlagrantWeeaboo

Puyo Parp.

The puzzle game series Puyo Puyo can be found on many systems including the lesser-known FM Towns Marty and the failed Nokia N-Gage. The Game Gear had several games released in the franchise - ports of the two arcade games, Puyo Puyo and Puyo Puyo Tsuu - and various titles in the more puzzle-oriented Nazo Puyo sub-series. Puzlow Kids was an attempt at localizing the original Game Gear Puyo Puyo, abandoned when SEGA decided they would bring the series to the West as Doctor Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine instead.

The interesting thing about Puzlow Kids is that it was simultaneously both released and not released. Puzlow Kids exists on the Game Gear cartridge for Puyo Puyo, and if inserted into an English-region Game Gear, Puyo Puyo will be replaced by the fully translated Puzlow Kids. This is because both versions of the game exist on the same ROM, and are merely switched by region. Despite Puzlow Kids being in English, no actual "Puzlow Kids" release was ever made. No Puzlow Kids stickered cartridge, instruction manual or game box exists. Therefore it's quite the conundrum, that Puzlow Kids both exists and doesn't in tandem.

This Game Gear version of Puyo Puyo is torture to play. Even though the game runs at a solid 60 frames per second, the input lag is unbearable. Without going too much into describing how Puyo plays (for the sake of making this review less dry to read), I'll quickly explain why input lag is a problem in Puyo Puyo. The goal of Puyo Puyo is to create chains of exploding puzzle pieces, by arranging bunches of four or more which when destroyed will then set off another bunch of four. Maneuverability of pieces is very important, and this iteration of the game seems to almost actively reject your inputs thanks to the Game Gear's limited hardware.

This jank renders an otherwise perfectly playable falling puzzle game into a painful and arduous experience. When the core component of the game is this flawed, it is extremely hard to recommend. The original MSX version of Puyo Puyo was stiffer than this version, indeed, but after the Arcade version smoothed out the gameplay it would be impossible to consider this gameplay experience as anything close to ideal.

Brain Dumb.

Puzlow Kids features the original "1 Player Game", where you can play either a set of 3 practice stages or 13 regular stages, each with a computer opponent to defeat. Whereas other versions of the game contain dialogue sequences with the opponent, this version omits them likely due to cartridge space (especially likely considering that two versions of the game exist on one cart). Besides "1 Player Game", there is also the "Versus Game" (playable to linking two Game Gear systems together), the "Endless Game" where the player can practice creating chains without the computer opponent present... and "Quest Game", what would eventually develop into the Nazo Puyo spin-off series, with goals to complete such as destroying all Puyo of a particular colour, or rather, "P-Kids" in this translation. I guess they're not Puyo, they're P-Kids.

"Quest Game" features music unique to this version of Puyo Puyo, and also incorporates a password system so that the player can return to whatever quest they had reached. I appreciate that this handheld version of Puyo Puyo was equipped with a mode more suited to portable play.

For fans of the Puyo Puyo franchise, Puzlow Kids is worth a brief play session to see what it does differently, but I find it very difficult to recommend. Thankfully, there have been many other portable versions of Puyo Puyo released over the years that I would insist you play in Puzlow Kids stead. You can find most of what Puzlow Kids offers and at a superior quality in the Game Boy Advance title Puyo Pop, which is fairly easy to find on the second-hand market.

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