Polarium Advance (Game Boy Advance) Preview

By Adam Riley 08.03.2006 6

Ever since Tetris was launched to the world back in the 1980s, Nintendo has been one of the leading figures in puzzle games for all sectors of the marketplace. Last year saw it team up with Mitchell to bring the cleverly simple, yet frustratingly (and pleasingly) difficult Polarium to the Nintendo DS. Now, though, the same team has considerably expanded the experience, but this time brought it to the humble GBA. Can it live up to its older brother's standards, though?

Many people would think that bringing a brand new game out on a powerful system and then releasing a follow-up on a weaker platform would obviously lead to a stark contrast in terms of quality and overall value of the product. However, this difference in the case of Polarium and its new Advance version is indeed vast...but not quite in the way you would imagine. Whilst the Nintendo DS was definitely a spectacular experience, with its devious puzzles, simple presentation style and soothing music, it was ultimately missing a final ingredient that would have lifted it up to Tetris-like addiction levels. The beauty is that the game's popularity has ensured that Mitchell has been granted the opportunity to go back to the drawing board and give the series another shot.

Having tinkered with the new version of the game late last year after its October release in Japan, it is safe to say that what made the original outing so pleasing for puzzle nuts out there, such as myself, is back with a bang...and it sure is an extra big bang that will leave your senses reeling! Do not fear, just because the very handy stylus control has been removed does not mean that the control system has become much more awkward. The speed of the cursor is just fine and dandy for using the trusty D-pad to move about the screen with. After just a short while of messing about with the tile-based game you will easily forget all about the lack of touch-screen input. Flipping simple titles from black-to-white and vice versa has never been so much fun!

Screenshot for Polarium Advance on Game Boy Advance

The game is set to launch on the Game Boy Advance on 7th April 2006, under the new name of Polarium Advance. Clearly Nintendo decided that since the Game Boy micro has not been the runaway success that it imagined it might be, taking just 10-15% of all US GBA sales since its release last year, calling the game 'Polarium micro' would just have confused many consumers and potentially jeopardised sales due to lack of familiarity. The release is also not too far off now, and Nintendo must have been brutally aware that launching this after Tetris DS (which hits later in April) would likely have been a complete disaster. Lucky for us that this has been realised, as it means we get it quicker than anticipated.

Anyway, the basic premise of the game, for those that are blissfully unaware, is that you are faced with a screen of black tiles, white tiles, or a mixture of the two. The aim is to find out the correct pattern of flipping, in one grand move, that leads to all the tiles being turned into identical rows, thus making them disappear and leading you on to the next stage. Simple, right? Haha, if only it was...The game can be so brain-achingly difficult that you will likely get too frustrated and turn off the damn thing. The point is, though, that you will definitely switch back on after a break to crack that last annoying puzzle.

Screenshot for Polarium Advance on Game Boy Advance

Thrown into the mix are new tiles this time round, though, with players now not limited to black and white ones. There are three fresh tiles to play around with; Solid, Hurdle and Joker tiles. The first set are chain-fixed tiles, which when removed by combining colours make tiles above them drop down to fill the empty space. Then there are the Hurdles, which are blue boxes acting as obstacles that will definitely be the cause of much frustration! Finally the Joker tiles can become either black or white to work in lines of either colour.

In terms of modes available, there is Stage, Time Attack, Edit and Custom. Stage serves up a massive 365 puzzles to complete, clearly with the marketing angle of 'one puzzle a day for the whole year' being a strong possibility, especially since the game uses the internal clock to actually allow gamers to take on one per day. Completing more puzzles opens up the newer, tougher ones and once a particular puzzle is solved, it is stored in 'Reference Mode' for future practice. Time Attack has gamers pitted against the clock on one of two difficulty levels, Easy or Hard, trying to beat your previous score on the Rankings menu. Then there is the Edit mode, where you can create up to one hundred unique puzzles of your own, each of which give you a password so they can be transferred to other gamer's copies.

Screenshot for Polarium Advance on Game Boy Advance

Oh, and for those wondering if there is any other compatibility between the DS version and this new GBA one will be slightly disappointed to find that the only way they interact is via passwords, rather than downloading when putting both games into a DS system. In order to bring over all of the custom puzzles created in the DS game, players must input special passwords into Polarium Advance's password input menu. However, rather than looking at this so negatively, at least it helps to add to what is already a beast of a puzzle game. Plus, it must be remembered that plugging this GBA title into the forthcoming Magnetica, also by Mitchell, will automatically open up new features in both itself and the DS puzzler. So there is something else to look forward to then...

Screenshot for Polarium Advance on Game Boy Advance

Final Thoughts

Overall Polarium Advance it turning out to be what its big brother should have been – the complete package. Despite the lack of stylus this time round, you can definitely look forward to one of the most gruelling, yet satisfying, puzzle experiences to date.









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  n/a

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


It's a very impressive game and shows that the GBA can still hold its own against the big boys out there...Hopefully us Brits will give it a warmer welcome than we did with the DS version.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

I only got the DS version to really "run-in" the novelty of my DS, its highly unlikely that i will find myself picking this up despite my love for the DS version

It's a shame that I reckon many other will feel the same. The DS version was definitely rushed to make launch, as can be seen by the development shots on Nintendo.com that have lots of colour and extra tiles in them. Clearly this is the complete game that Mitchell would have created if given more time.

I love the funky new European box art, by the way...

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

I can't really get the hang of Polarium DS and feel really dumb when I take ages :-( But I suppose it just takes practice.

With this GBA version wouldn't it be more diffcult to play the games where you have to try not to let the blocks reach the top? Just curious :P

Co-founder of the PDSLB - Pink DS Lite Buddies Fraz: Cheerios are made from fairy orgasms.

This game actually seems much more fair. I found the DS game could be really awkward at times and some of those puzzles were just absolutely impossible to complete :eek: So don't worry about taking a while to get them...I think we're all in the same boat there!

This has much more variety poured in, and (not mentioned in the preview) you can zoom in and out of the puzzle maps to get a better view if you want.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

Um... I dont really get the idea of paying AU$50 for a simple game I can play on the net. I dont advise gettiong this unless you are collecting games or you loved the DS version.

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