Nintendo DS Review: Pokémon Trozei!

While Pokémon usually means lightweight roleplaying, it does venture into the puzzler genre from time to time. Unlike Pokémon Puzzle League and Pokémon Puzzle Challenge, Trozei! takes the Columns/Bejeweled game play mechanic and throws a wrench into the equation.

Trozei! simply would not be as fun without the stylus. That is to say, I cannot imagine this title working on any other platform. Like many games before it, this is why the Nintendo DS is such a strong console.

At its core, Trozei! uses a playfield with tiles spread across both the touch screen and the upper screen of the DS. Using your stylus, you can move the Pokémon icons up, down, left and right. Movement in the upward direction is limited to only one tile. Moving the icons in any other direction wraps the icons to the other side of the playfield, or drops them (again) from the top, if you were to move a column of icons down. This fluid movement of icons, and the addition of moving an icon up to make a combo, or Trozei, is what makes this puzzler unique.

You must align four or five of the same icon to clear it from the playfield. Once you do this, you have the opportunity to create a massive chain with a "Trozei Chance." This window of opportunity is only a couple of seconds, so you need to work fast to combo three in a row. If you were able to string three icons in a row, then you can combo two in a row. The ultimate goal is to "Trozei All" and clear every Pokémon icon from the playfield.

As you advance in level, the Trozei Chance windows shorten into almost nothing. This keeps the pace frantic and the tension high -- two qualities that make this one addictive puzzle game.

Helping you out along the way is Ditto, a wild card Pokémon that will allow you to make your initial combo, or continue a Trozei Chance later on. Rare Pokémon will vanish if uncaught, so using Ditto comes in handy to grab the rare ones. You didn't think you could get away from "gotta catch 'em all" mantra did you? Not a chance. There are over 380 Pokémon to catch.

Trozei! does not have a lot in the way of game play modes. With such a short list of modes, the training missions could have been split out, and expanded upon, to add depth.

Single-player consists of Adventure and Endless modes. The Adventure is of the over-too-soon variety with challenging boss fights along with your standard "clear x number of icons" missions.

The bosses throw out null icons that can only be cleared by using Ditto, which adds even more strategy. They will also turn the lights out, changing all the icons to just silhouettes for a couple seconds, which greatly adds to the challenge of defeating a boss. Making them even harder to conquer is how you handle your combo chains. You might be down to only one icon to clear, but if you cannot chain that last one, it is back to 50 or 60 until the end. All of these things equal very satisfying boss fights.

The only real disappointment in Adventure mode is the amount of prologue you have to read (or tap-tap-tap) through. You are Lucy Fleetfoot, a secret agent tasked with recapturing Pokémon for research. The mission and boss structure has been around for so long now that to string it all together with this sci-fi story seems like a throwaway.

The art style of the Adventure mode cut-scenes, and the entire game, is very non-Pokémon and actually refreshing. Gone is the anime styling of your standard Pokémon game. In place of that is more of a Saturday morning cartoon look. The only downfall here is in the sheer number of Pokémon icons. Some are downright impossible to distinguish. This leads to a quick death in the later stages of the game.

No puzzler would be complete with an endless mode, and Trozei!'s Endless mode is truly endless. Unlike Adventure mode, the difficulty does not ramp up very well. It is not until level 15 or 20 where you will start to be challenged. Adding salt to this wound, combos will randomly happen right when you get close to the Game Over screen. This of course triggers a massive chain that has a pretty good chance of getting a Trozei All bonus. You can also ruin your time with Trozei!, similar to the downfall of Meteos, by randomly moving icons around the playfield.

Multiplayer action sees both co-op and competitive battles, which support two player single and multi-card Download Play. The only thing missing is Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection support. As Trozei! was released two weeks before Tetris DS, it would have helped greatly to include the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection.

In place of the Nintedo Wi-Fi Connection is Espionage mode, which allows you send and receive Agent Cards of all other Trozei! players in the area. This makes finding rare Pokémon easier, as well as acts as a local tracker.

Pokémon Trozei!'s unique game play style warrants the purchase for any puzzle fan. Even though Tetris DS is out, Trozei! stands strong on its own two legs.

(**** out of *****)

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