System: Nintendo DS (Exclusive)
Developer: Q! Entertainment
There’s no shortage of puzzle games on Nintendo’s dual-screen handheld. Games like Tetris DS, Planet Puzzle League, and Puzzle Quest are leading the genre today, but there is one forgotten gem that floats in orbit just waiting to be rediscovered. This game is 2005’s Meteos, from Q! Entertainment.
Today there is no question about the DS’s two screens and touch screen interface, but back in June of 2005 the majority of people saw absolutely no reason for either innovation. Developers were looking for new ways to use the new hardware and trying to create new games that couldn’t be done elsewhere, often meeting sub-par or gimmicky results.
Enter Meteos, released 7 months after the system’s North American debut. This game shattered the puzzle game mold, strayed away from the industry norms, and managed to create a fast-paced, wildly competitive puzzle game that could be compared to nothing before it and finally brought something to the table that couldn’t have been done on any other system.
Meteos is one of the few puzzle games out there that felt the need to include a story, and what an epic one it is. The game opens with an insanely awesome CG video that chronicles the dark events that have been occurring throughout the universe.
It turns out that the evil planet Meteo is attacking the rest of the planets in the universe with an endless flow of phantasmagoric, material known as Meteos, and destroying them. After discovering a way to prevent their planets from being destroyed, the alien species that reside throughout the universe band together for a final confrontation with the evil planet, hopefully to destroy it once and for all.
This is where your adventure starts. Traveling across the universe on the Metamo Ark, slowly making your way to Meteo, you must fight off attacks on various planets before your quest to save the entire universe can be complete.
While the story is certainly a fantastic one by Puzzle Game standards, the real point of interest in Meteos is its gameplay. Sure you’ve got your standard rules. Different colored blocks fall from the top of the playing field and stack up until there is no more room for them, in which case the player loses. Mixed in with the blocks are various items that can be used to assist in surviving the merciless shower of blocks. To clear the blocks from the screen, the player must match up three or more of the same colored pieces. This is where the similarities stop.
Meteos is played exclusively with the touch-screen, using the stylus to move blocks only in columns, no horizontal movement is allowed. This makes finding combos much more challenging, though rewarding at the same time. Each planet has its own unique gravitational traits. Some planets have light pulls, some strong, some planets are even played underwater. The game’s physics engine does a great job of creating these unique environments with their exclusive gravitational pulls.
Once three like-colored pieces are aligned in either a horizontal or vertical line, the blocks blacks into the air carrying all blocks that rest on top of them on their aerial adventure. This creates a completely standalone platform that serves as a second playing field. If your platform doesn’t reach the top of the screen and blast into orbit, you must continue trying to fight it off of your planet and back to Meteo.
This can be done several different ways. The most common method to use will be to continue lining up blocks on the floating platform to launch a 3rd platform even higher into the atmosphere. If there aren’t any possible block combinations atop the platform, you create a new one underneath it which will launch up and ram into the bottom of it, giving it the extra boost it needs to make it away from the planet’s gravitational pull. If a platform makes it extremely close to the exit of the play field but still refuses to leave you can simply throw single blocks toward the bottom of the platform to give it a slight boost that could get the floating mass of blocks out of your hair once and for all.
Keep in mind each planet has its own gravitational pull, which forces players to be extremely strategic when fighting off Meteos attacks. Some strategies for removing blocks only work on certain planets, and the player has to constantly alter his or her play style to adapt to all of the unique planets.
The graphics and audio design of this game are equally as impressive and deep as the gameplay. Just as every planet has its own gravitational pull it also has its own unique feel thanks to the visually pleasing backdrops and Meteo block art styles. The CG videos in the game are absolutely gorgeous, and every 2D planet sprite is given its own personality. Perhaps the most visually pleasing aspect of the game is the amazingly detailed and well-imagined menu system which feels like you are operating some futuristic touch-screen computer.
But the sound in Meteos is the icing on the design cake. Every planet has its own brilliantly composed songs and sound effects that give each planet and amazingly unique feeling. Even more astounding is that every song and effect can be unlocked and played in the game’s on-board media player. It’s a simple little toy, but it proves to be a feature that you’ll use often just to hear your favorite song from the game without having to battle for your specie’s lives.
The game’s main campaign is called Star Trip and features the ability to change your home planet, difficulty, or the route you’ll take through the universe. Each route other than Straight offers multiple branching paths you can take through the universe which presents a large level of replayability.
Other modes of play include Simple, Time War, and Deluge. Simple mode is where you’ll pick from the game’s huge multitude of options to create the perfectly customized experience for a single stage play.
Time War offers four different timed high-score based challenges. 2:00 and 5:00 Time Wars challenge you to survive for the designated amount of time while racking up as many points as you possibly can. 100 and 1,000 Meteo Wars task players with clearing the respective amount of blocks from the screen as quickly as possible.
Also adding a ton to the games already massive amount of replay value is the Fusion Mode. Here you will use the Meteos you’ve collected through your play-throughs to craft new home planets and characters, items and rare metals to be used in-game, and Sounds which we’ve already discussed. This will provide incentive to keep playing after beating the campaign mode.
One gripe I have is that multiplayer is local only. Meteos would’ve made an amazing online puzzler that could possibly surpass addiction levels of Tetris DS’ online mode. At the very least online leader boards would’ve been nice. The game does offer the ability to beam a demo to your friend’s DS to ensure that any two to four players can compete with only one copy of the game, provided they all have their own system to use. And while there are no online leader boards, Meteos does offer a very intensive stat chart with tons of information.
For far too long Meteos has been an overlooked title. Not many people picked it up when it launched and has even to this day failed to move the vast amount of numbers it should have despite its immense critical success, a fact that is likely the sole reason the game has never received a proper sequel but instead seen only Disney-themed piles of crap that ruin the legendary name the game should have.
If you see Meteos in the used games bin at your local entertainment store, do yourself a favor and pick it up. It is one of the deepest, most satisfying and innovative puzzle games of all time. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
- Each planet feels unique thanks to individualized graphics, music, and gravitational pulls
- Highly addictive and innovative controls that are tough but rewarding to master
- The story is Shakespeare by puzzle game standards
- Exquisite interface and presentation
- Astronomically high amounts of replay value
- Doesn’t leave needle marks unlike most hardcore addictive substances
- No online functions whatsoever take away from what could’ve been an amazing multiplayer experience
- There will be times when you want to stab your DS with a big ass sword because you continuously fail
Score: 9.4/10 (Amazing)
Gameplay: 9.5/10 (Addiction, pure and simple)
Graphics: 9.0/10 (Stellar presentation, beautiful CG, unique visual style)
Audio: 9.5/10 (Expertly composed soundtrack)
Entertainment Value: 9.75/10 (Seemingly endless playability is hindered only by lack of online)