Review: YoYo's Puzzle Park (Sony PlayStation)

Review-YoYos-Puzzle-ParkIn the good old days we had the joy of Taito's Bubble Bobble and its eventual successor, Rainbow Islands. There have been many similar games to the 1986 arcade smash over the years, Rodlands and Snow Bros to name a couple. But it took over a decade later for us to receive Irem's completely unnoticed gem: Yoyo's Puzzle Park to arrive on the PlayStation. Its similarities to the adventures of Bub and Bob are more than comparable, but why didn't it get the recognition it so rightly deserved?

Gussun and Oyoyo (Puzzle Park's main characters) have been around since 1993 in Japan. They had an arcade game called Risky Challenge - you guide the treasure seeking characters ala Lemmings and Tetris over the various obstacles to reach their goal on each stage. Versions of this game were also eventually ported (with different stages but the game remained similar) to the Super Famicom and Sega Saturn. Both games also had sequels for each console so why didn't we see any of them? Puzzle Park introduces Nanoda Paradise theme park which has been taken over by the evil Yoyo and his airship full of cronies (his airship being a giant duck of course). It is up to Gussun and Oyoyo to stop him / her / it. That's the story - uncomplicated, no need for any form of over explanation, just get on with some aracde awesome!

Stages vary from jungle, theatre, roller coaster to sea world: sounds like typical fayre but each theme has its own gimmick that makes each stage unique. The jungle stage for example has the bottom tier being a safari boat - the upper layers floating along like the stage is on a voyage down river. Sea world is partly submerged which rises and falls - making jumping floatier and enemies more difficult to kill - especially the ones firing torpedos at you! 

Powerups throughout each stage are all varied and fun to use. You can hop into vehicles that not only have their own special moves (a UFO to double jump or a rubber lilo caterpillar that shoots laser beams from its mouth for no reason for example), but also give you an extra hit point of damage if caught by a enemy. Your primary weapon to stun foes is a pop gun that on killing enemies you can power it up so it can shoot further. Speed ups are also on offer so its all very pastiche to Bubble Bobble's 'Power Up.'

Review-YoYos-Puzzle-Park-Screenshots

The object of each stage is to kill all enemies in order to move on to the next. There are big and little bombs strewn all over which when awoken (they all have cutsey anime style sleepy faces) blow up, leaving a trail of a Bomberman explosion. An enemy hit by the blast is taken out. Repeat the process to keep going - all sounds very Bubble Bobble doesn't it? One of the enemy types is even a green dragon with yellow spikes on its back so the homage is there for all to see! Shooting an enemy stuns them, as does throwing a stunned baddie into another - chain this to a bomb attack (or several as bombs ignite other ones in the vicinity) and you can kill multiple enemies. If you ignite a bomb and do not stun your opponent - they panic and flee, adding more strategy to the proceedings. Add in to the mix that you can pick up bombs and throw them up or down a tier on the level and it can all get really frantic. A fun addictive single player becomes Bubble Bomberman Bobble magic when you have a buddy to play with. You constantly have to be aware of what your co op buddy is doing in case you accidentally blow them up or vice versa.

Every time you blow up one of Yoyo's minions you get playing cards. These act as points and if you chain up exploding enemies you can earn different coloured ones, eventually getting 1up cards. This is all well and good, but it is a bit dull. The rest of the game is more moreish than sausage rolls - so why not have different items such as fruits to collect? The cards seem more out of place as there isn't a scrap book to collect them or anything (that would have been a welcome feature) they just give point rewards. There are little Gussuns' hidden throughout each stage which can be found by calling out to them. Gussun / Oyoyo have the cutest little animations, their voices being no exception so it is always fun to hear them shouting out, only to get a muffled response. The closer you get to your hidden friend, the louder the reply. Blowing up a bomb where you think the captive is (shout out close enough and a silhouette will appear) will reveal them, allowing you to collect. Trying to do this whilst working to a timer and also trying to avoid the wealth of wonderful characters trying to hunt you down adds a lot of replay value - especially as you lose your rescued friend if you die. After each world is complete, you can replay any stage, a checklist popping up telling you which levels have Gussuns' still needing to be saved. 

The graphics are lovely - arcadey colourful action with explosions popping off everywhere. Every inch of each stage is packed full of charm. Watching a chubby foe struggle to climb a higher tier is just a cute example of Puzzle Park's attention to detail, as is each world's specific enemy types. The sound is generally good, but the music lets it down for me. Whistle the beginning of Bubble Bobble on a bus and you can guarantee someone will find you and kill you, but here there is nothing memorable. Each track matches its stage perfectly (the sea world has a Jaws-esque motif) but nothing sticks. Credit to the game though having different songs per world.

The controls are perfect. If you die it is because of complacency, not because the game has jipped you. A lack of attention will mostly result in death so you always have to be on your toes - especially in two player. The game has unlimited continues too so it never becomes a pain to replay a stage, it just makes you want to try harder next time.

YoYo's Puzzle Park (Gameplay)

Conclusion

Considering there are five other Gussun (not really sure what to call them collectively) games, it is still surprising that we managed to get the sixth one in PAL territories. The gameplay and general presentation is fantastic, but it does suffer from poor translation - the ending cutscenes are particularly woeful and nonsensical. But, you don't necessarily play an arcade style game for its ending (they usually spoil some of the fun for me) its more the challenge of saying you have completed it. Puzzle Park is so addictive and chocked full of replay value so even when you have completed it, there is still plenty to do - collecting hidden Gussuns or time trialing each stage will keep your attention.

If you are a Bubble Bobble enthusiast or indeed an old school single screen arcade gamer, then Yoyo's Puzzle Park is absolutely essential in your collection. It is a sure fire under rated gem that should be adored as one of the PlayStation's greatest arcade style games instead of being a footnote in badly translated obscurity. Go and find a copy right now, I promise you won't be disappointing! (That is a bad translation gag and definitely NOT a typo...)


Further reading: http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/gussun/gussun2.htm


Last Updated ( 19 October 2014 )  

James 'ewjim' Evans

Jim is a self confessed know it all when it comes to 16-bit gaming. With a strange fondness of playing rubbish videogames for the fun of it, there is no stoop too low he won't go to for entertainment.

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Comments 

(Link to this comment) Player One 2014-10-19 14:05
So this is the only part that made it to Europe? Bummer, it seems fun to play.
(Link to this comment) DemonicNinja 2014-10-19 18:13
Wow! Looks fun!,
(Link to this comment) Loch and Quay 2014-10-19 20:57
Nice going Jim, the game could certainly do with more awareness as it's a blast to play. Definitely needs Hidden Gem status on the database when the PS1 games get their stars and diamonds.
(Link to this comment) ollie809 2014-10-20 12:26
nice review mate.sound like my kind of game never herd of it before but love a bit of bubble bobble so will have to look out for this. i assume on it release it was too japanzie for us at that time
(Link to this comment) ewjim 2014-10-20 12:35
I only have a promo version of it, but its readily available on Ebay for around the £10 mark.
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