You'll find no shortage of accolades for niche publisher and developer Nippon Ichi Sofware. Its American counterpart, NIS America, has been releasing RPGs in all shapes and sizes for years now. Its latest release represents two firsts for the company: a touch-driven puzzle game and a title for the Nintendo DS. The interesting thing about Jaleco-developed Puchi Puchi Virus is there's nothing it can really be compared to. Its precise application of the touch screen is both refreshing and addicting, making this puzzle outing an easy sell for hardcore and casual fans alike. Don't be fooled though, Puchi Puchi Virus is deceptively easy at first. Peel a few layers away, and you'll find that there's plenty of challenge to be had.
In the Puchi Puchi Virus universe, you'll join the doctor, his assistant, and a chicken as you cure people infected with Puchirus, using the Puchi Buster DS to inject mega doses of pure awesome. Patients range from the easy--Pigsqueak (earn 100 points in 10 minutes)--to the much more difficult--Tick Doff (clear all virii without letting any congeal for a minute). Getting the hang of things may take only minutes, but mastering the system will take many, many hours--as of 40 hours with the game there were still patients to be cured.
Virii present themselves as blobs, very similar to those from the Puyo franchise. Tapping three, same-colored virii will create a shaded triangle that can then be popped. Tag another set that overlaps, and burst the original to start a chain effect. Keep it going as long as possible to net higher scores and to cure later, more difficult patients. The real challenge comes as virii start to move and congeal more quickly making it harder and harder to speed through levels. As the virii propagate, things will get all sorts of ugly. A body monitor will let you know how badly things are going, but the simplest way is to pay attention to the screen--it’s often very difficult to come back once virii have overtaken most of the level. To help when things seem dire, you can earn and use a pill. Level it up to revert more and more of the screen back into poppable virii.
Moving forward in the game means curing patients of specific requirements. I mentioned a couple above, but there are lots of varieties of complications. Cured patients can be revisited in order to hone your skills. There’s also an endless training mode. How about multiplayer? It's here and offers download and wireless versions. Testing the game over download play with the resident puzzle expert in the house (aka my wife), proved to be fun and showed that I need much more practice to master Puchi Puchi Virus.
Another successful release for NIS, this puzzle adventure offers plenty of single player challenges and a solid multiplayer mode. The story is silly and the aesthetics, while not groundbreaking, work perfectly to keep the experience all about defeating virii. Some may not like the concept and chaining system, but it’s fair to say that about any puzzle concept--some don’t like puzzle games where blocks fall from the sky. Based on originality and challenge, Puchi Puchi Virus performs really well. I hope this one doesn’t get overlooked because of its packaging, because it offers very simple mechanics that take patience and skill to master. Truly incomparable and exciting, Puchi Puchi Virus is an instant purchase for fans of the genre and a great expansion from NIS' core focus.