Leaving for DC for our very first excursion to the fabled East Coast, our firm intention is to capitalize on a precious long weekend. For the flight, I am bringing along my Nintendo DS and Hotel Dusk, but the recent announcements from Nintendo have me slightly riled up, if there can be such a state.
Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, Geometry Wars DS, Mario Strikers Charged, they all make me happy. But Planet Puzzle League, a revival of the puzzle perfection that was Tetris Attack, has me in throes of ecstasy. Do nerds lose their virginities to the nigh-sexual stimulation delivered upon slabs of unassailable gameplay? If so, then Tetris Attack was my first, and I remember her way too well.
A puzzle game is a funny thing. Its purpose is to stroke you until you are frustrated with mounds of unfulfilled resolutions that dance tantalizingly within reach. Yet pleasure in them is in the play, not the completion. Each time you do it, you learn to can go longer, and in time it's second nature. You gain mastery of a new, simple universe with simple rules, until you meet another player. Pitted against each other, you become addicted to unending contests of attrition.
The perfect puzzle game, which Tetris Attack is, never lets up. The split second of breath it gives you to either save yourself, or let a fuckton of bricks crush the life out of you is like trying to pants Death and escape alive. A perfect puzzle game, like Tetris Attack, doesn't give you or your opponent any cheap saves though. Each near-death experience is earned, and each earned is in turn a riposte, and each riposte can add up to a counterattack upon your nemesis' unpreparéd ego. I would say this game is the purest distillation of human power struggle and its wanton equilibrium ever made.
You know when a game is perfect when in the end a match between equally skilled players is decided not on luck, but on preserverance. This isn't the imbalanced Puzzle Fighters, the analog Wetrix, the stoic Tetris, the feminist Zuma, the arbitrary Lumines, or the shallow Bust-a-Move. This is Planet Puzzle League. Be afraid.