Sometimes it seems that puzzle games are a dime a dozen. They clutter the bargain bins, providing some variety for the shopper wading through all the sports titles. With gems, lines, number or colors, all these titles run the risk of blending together into one psychedelic puzzle nightmare. With so many puzzlers flooding the market, the truly timeless titles need to provide enough new material to make another purchase worthwhile. Over ten years after its initial release, Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo HD Remix manages to pass that test with flying, colored gems.
Puzzle Fighter developer Backbone Entertainment has brought a bunch of classic titles to Xbox Live recently, including the Sonic titles and Streets of Rage 2, so you know they can handle updating classic games. While a causal downloader might snap up the more popular Sonic titles, they might pass up another puzzler in a crowded genre. At only 800 points, they'd be missing out on a true gem (pun intended).
It's unfortunate that the uninitiated might be quick to shrug off Super Puzzle Fighter due to those old, cute looking bitmaps. They'd be missing one hell of XBLA time-waster.
For the unfamiliar, the title features some famous Capcom characters from the Street Fighter and Darkstalkers series. While the puzzling plays out, super deformed characters duke it out in the center of the screen. Of course, you're going to be way to busy placing gem pieces to pay attention to them. Four different color gems fall down from the sky above, at an ever-increasing rate. Your mission is to take gems of the same color and form two by two (or larger) blocks.
Once they've been collecting into blocks of four or more, you'll be on the lookout for special “crash” gems of the same color that will blast away those huge blocks when they touch them. The result will be a bunch of junk falling down onto your opponent. The junk gems have numbers assigned to them, which count down as more blocks fall on them. When the counter hits zero they will turn back into regular gems. For the desperate, there are also diamond gems, which will clear the board of all gems of whatever color they touch.
The only downside is that frequently all your work at filling your opponent's space with junk blocks can be undone in a second by some well timed (and luckily placed) clearing gems. This is especially the case when your opponent is fortunate enough to come across a diamond gem mere seconds before they lose the round. Still, even if it occasionally feels like fortune rules the roost, the last second possibility for victory makes for some real intense gameplay. Things can (and will) change at the drop of a piece.
Amid all the action, you need to be focused on what mode you are playing as well. There are four modes to master, including the original arcade X mode and a newly rebalanced X dash mode. Y and Z mode varies the gameplay enough to keep you interesting when X mode frustrates you. Most puzzlers do one thing really well, but with four modes this title goes above and beyond the call of duty.
Of course, the key feature is the ability to show off your mad gem skills to the world at large. Online play is solid for the most part, although similar to other Live titles, lag can be a sticking issue. I even had the game completely freeze on me once. Despite a few hiccups, there's no substitute for that arcade feeling, especially with a four player quarter mode where two players wait their turn to battle the victor.
The biggest complaint lodged against the title is that the characters battling in the center of the action are merely blown up sprites and not remastered in HD like the rest of the game. While the sprites do stand out amid the polished look of the rest of the game, it really isn't that big of a deal. To me, the blown up sprites gives it that retro feel. It's unfortunate that the uninitiated might be quick to shrug off Super Puzzle Fighter due to those old, cute looking bitmaps. They'd be missing one hell of XBLA time-waster.