Review Review - 2-in-1! Dr. Mario & Puzzle League (GBA)

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Sentient Cash Register
Oct 21, 2005
Far East of Eden
United States

I've done some research. As far as I can tell, this is the only 2-in-1 pack for the GBA whose games weren't already released for the GBA seperately. What this pack will bring you is updated renditions of the classic Dr. Mario and a less-known puzzler known here as Puzzle League. For those who don't know, Puzzle League has already been released for a variety of systems with different names and brandings, including Tetris Attack for the SNES and GB (featuring characters from Yoshi's Island), Pokémon Puzzle League for the N64, Pokémon Puzzle Challenge for the GBC, and Panel de Pon for the SNES and GCN (Japan only, featuring fairies). This particular version doesn't have any sort of character branding.


Dr. Mario plays exactly as it should, no gripes here. This one is well enough known that I'm assuming you already know the basic mechanics. Intelligent Systems seems to have added a new mode, called "Flash", quite similar to Tetris 2, in which there are many viruses on the screen and only the glowing ones must be removed to complete a level. For some odd reason, Flash is only available for Multiplayer or Vs. CPU.


Dr. Mario's "Flash" mode in action.


For those who don't already know, the goal in Puzzle league is to swap pieces horizontally to make sets of three or more, while more pieces continue to rise from the bottom. Puzzle League plays quite accurately to previous incarnations, but with changes to the scoring system, as seems to be standard for the Panel de Pon/Tetris Attack games. Unfortunately for fans of the previous games in the series, "Vs. CPU" has been reduced to single customizable matches, leaving out a round-based system and simple story mode entirely. On the plus side, this means that you have the option to play against the game's AI at any difficulty you want, allowing you to choose every specific detail such as swap speed, rising speed, etc.


The three purple diamonds that are lined
up are about to clear off of the screen.

Almost every aspect of Puzzle League has a ridiculously high level of customizability, accessible from the "Options" screen. You can tweak small details such as the randomization of incoming pieces, or you can change to a different theme for gameplay. For those who like to mess around with small settings, this game has plenty.


Both games have a "Vertical" mode that can be unlocked with a high enough score, which cuts off most of the display data and turns the play field sideways to make it bigger and easier to see. Unfortunately, "Vertical" is only really comforable to play on an old GBA due to the clamshell design of the DS and SP getting in the way of the controls when held sideways. Attempting to play this mode using the Game Boy Player can turn out to be a complete disaster unless you turn the TV sideways. Both games also sport a multiplayer mode which only supports multipack play. In addition, there is a demo download for each game via multiboot, but this does not support multiplayer either.

Gameplay: 9/10


The graphics for Dr. Mario are incredibly ugly, done in a sloppy variation on the style from Dr. Mario 64. They are, however, quite clear, and won't be too distracting once you're playing.


The layout doesn't seem to have changed
over the years, but a hospital theme would
have been more appropriate and less
obtrusive than this jungle style.

The panels in Puzzle League seem to look the same as they always have, which is just fine because the look fits the game. The backgrounds, on the other hand, seem to be considerably less interesting than in other PdP/TA games. You can choose the backgrounds and color schemes from pre-made choices, which range from light and dark, busy and calm, but you won't find yourself noticing or remembering them.


Playing with the default background

Graphics: 5/10


Ugh, yet another game that can't get the Dr. Mario themes to sound good. This contains the songs Fever, Chill, Cough, and Sneeze. Fever is only barely recognizable; they took the beginning of the song, made it sound crappy, and looped it. Most of the song isn't even there, however, just a loop of a the intro. Chill is actually pretty accurate to the original, except with poor-sounding instruments. Cough and Sneeze were in Dr. Mario 64 under the names "Cube" and "Que Que". Again, they don't sound as good as before. Actually, Cough is okay, but it has a really annoying intro. Even the title screen music has been terriblified. At least the sound effects were left intact.

Puzzle League, on the other hand, has music from the SNES Tetris Attack and Panel de Pon. Not all of it, but some of it, and it sounds just as good as the SNES version. The menu has original music that compliments the tracks used in gameplay itself, but you won't ever find yourself humming it. The sound effects were redone, and now sound just as in the older versions of this game except with clearer sampling. This is particularly noticable if you induce a fanfare with a large chain of matches, as they sound much cleaner than before.

Sound: 7/10

Replay Value

There aren't any major unlockables, but the games don't really get old. The style of the game makes it easy enough to put down when you need to, but it's fun enough that you won't want to. If you equip yourself for multiplayer, the already good replayability doubles.

Replay Value: 10/10


This is a really good package, but you'll probably find yourself playing Puzzle League more due to the lackluster presentation of Dr. Mario. It's definitely a keeper, just for Puzzle League. As for Dr. Mario, the game play is perfectly fine, but you'll probably enjoy the Classic NES Series version more. Basically, get this game.

Overall:8/10 (Not an average)
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