Dr. Mario / Puzzle League (Game Boy Advance) Review

By Adam Riley 24.12.2005

Many people believed that the Game Boy Advance was definitely on its way to the happy place in the sky, console heaven. However, the Nintendo DS has not stunted the GBA's progress in the slightest, especially since the release of the sleek micro model and new, backlit SP edition. Therefore, Nintendo has decided to take advantage of the renewed interest by bundling two of its puzzle classics together. But do they stand the test of time?

Now, the beauty of this game is that unlike most other puzzle experiences out there, you are certainly getting far more bang for your buck as there are two games to choose from in the package. First up there is Dr Mario, a game that has been knocked by critics over the years and a title developed by the clever folk at Intelligent Systems (Advance Wars, Paper Mario, Fire Emblem...) that goes by several names - the original Panel de Pon, which featured cute fairies, Pokémon Puzzle League or, probably its most infamous version in the West, Tetris Attack with its Yoshi-themed adventure. However, this time around it is merely 'Puzzle League', with no branding of any sort, which kind of comes as a shock to the system, but does not detract from the quality level IS brings to the table.

Screenshot for Dr. Mario / Puzzle League on Game Boy Advance

Audio and visually you may not be in for a mind-blowing experience, but Nintendo and Intelligent Systems sure do give you somewhat of a treat. Both games have a wonderfully clear appearance to them, achieving what they set out to do and nothing more. The graphics are not so intensive that they distract you from play and not so paltry and lame that you hide your screen in disgust so others do not manage to cast a glance over your shoulder and faint from disgust. Puzzle League takes top honours over Dr Mario on both counts, however, with is cute characters, and large, colourful blocks to play around with, as well as some of the catchiest music since the original Tetris itself! Dr Mario's tracks are not terrible, but it is quite apparent they were originally composed with the old Game Boy in mind, as opposed to the Super NES that housed Tetris Attack. Overall, sticking your headphones in whilst playing does not leave gamers with long-lasting headaches...

Let us start with Dr Mario, since that is the most famous of the two in the bundle. Your aim as Mario takes on the role of a clinical doctor is to be rid of the horrible virus strains that are surrounding you. Now, to do this you must guide similar coloured tablets down from the top of the screen, twisting and turning them to fit into the correct alignment, matching four or more of the same colour tablet / virus to clear a path horizontally or vertically. The major problem lies in the fact that not only are there viruses strewn randomly around the vertical playing field, but the tablets do not break apart once set in place. Therefore, whilst you may get two yellows aligned vertically and feel pleased with yourself, the other coloured part of the tablet remains static, rather than detaching and dropping further down like in many other puzzlers.

Screenshot for Dr. Mario / Puzzle League on Game Boy Advance

So Dr Mario suddenly takes on a new light in terms of difficultly and the requirement for much forward planning, something that will put some people off as it can become highly frustrating as things speed up. Yet this is the challenge and what keeps hardened fans coming back for more. And with the one-player endless mode, flash challenge (nothing to do with bathroom cleaning...you must see to the flashing viruses first!), computer versus and two-player attack, there is enough variety to keep gamers going.

But the jewel in the double-pack really has to be Intelligent Systems' Puzzle League. Even without the inclusion of any theme, especially the excellent Yoshi and the story mode that came with Tetris Attack, Puzzle League shines as bright as it did when first conceived during the mid-1990s. The playing fields constantly moves upwards, slowly or rapidly depending on the level you are participating in. You take control of a two-block sized horizontal cursor and have the ability to switch pieces from left-to-right in order to form a chain of three or more similar colours in a horizontal or vertical direction (sound familiar...?). You can manually push the blocks higher if you want to create some devastating combination clearances, which many such as myself will do frequently on the earlier difficulty levels as you watch various different combos kick in giving you a spectacular sense of self-satisfaction.

Screenshot for Dr. Mario / Puzzle League on Game Boy Advance

The modes on offer here are far in excess of Dr Mario, with six one-player options - Marathon (get as many points as possible), Versus Computer, Timed (gain the highest score in the time allotted), Line (clear various stages one-by-one), Garbage (large blocks fall on a regular basis, only to be turned into normal coloured blocks when a block touching it is cleared), and Puzzle (complete each set puzzle to see the game's ending). And as well as that, this ridiculously addictive game has a two-player mode, high scores tables and even a tutorial that shows you the controls, how to master the basic and advanced skills involved, as well as treating you to demonstrations of experts playing the game! Stick with this, and you definitely will as it sucks you in so much, and soon you will be just like those professionals.

So, worthy of your pennies? Absolutely. Dr Mario perhaps isn't quite as addictive as the other packaged-in game on this cartridge, but is still fun in short bursts. Puzzle League, however, will most definitely keep you glued to your Game Boy Advance for a long time to come. It really is one of the best puzzle games on the market.

Screenshot for Dr. Mario / Puzzle League on Game Boy Advance

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

It may seem a little strange to be giving such an off-the-cuff re-release duo a high final score like this, but it deserves it alone for the sublime Puzzle League that has managed to retain its grandeur status over the past decade. Dr Mario simply comes in as a welcome bonus to what could have justified a standalone release. It is cheap, it will suck your life away...give it a shot!









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

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   


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