In Depth Review: Meteos [NDS]
Meteos leaves an impression entirely opposite from Lumines, developer Q? Entertainment’s first portable puzzler, by throwing everything under and including the sun at you. The premise is that Planet Meteo is raining down death, destruction and debauchery upon its neighbors by shooting down uncontrollable fragments called meteos. But hark! Only YOU can save the universe... by dragging meteos into magical chains of three, rocketing them upwards to drive away the fiendishly evil rocks.
As nonsensical as the story may sound, it actually helps to setup the various gameplay aspects that Meteos offers. Similar to Tetris Attack for the Super Nintendo, Meteos only lets you vertically move meteos that have already landed in the play area. Because these meteorites are recklessly pouring down, it's certainly plausible that you wouldn't be able to control them directly.
Arranging a horizontal or vertical chain of at least three like-colored meteos will rocket them--and any meteos stacked above them--into the air. Let the play area fill up, and you cause a “Nova” (game over). Meanwhile, you're able to rearrange the meteos contained within an airborne stack if you're slick enough. The idea is to create enough of these chains within a heavy stack, building up enough momentum to fully blast it off the screen. As you attempt to do this, the stack slowly but surely floats back down.
Well, not always slowly. Meteos takes place across planets with different properties, the most notable one being gravity. High gravity forces you to build up many chains for enough momentum, with the reward of large and satisfying chain opportunities. Conversely, low gravity (usually “easier”) planets rarely offer those opportunities; stacks clear the screen too quickly for you to react. Also varied are the rate at which meteos drop and the actual behavior of chains. Don’t say I didn’t warn you when, on one planet, you form a horizontal chain... and NOTHING happens.
Each planet has a different presentation. The colorful graphics are impressively clean and sleek in some cases, but oddly funky and awkward in other cases, making it hard to wrap your head around them. The music follows suit. There are some choice hectic songs, but it trends towards simple and sometimes drab tunes. Sound effects are specific to each musical theme--the Caribbean theme, for instance, rewards success with the sound of steel kettle drums. Though a nod to Lumines’ music-mixing oriented audio style, sadly this dynamic sometimes sounds more like cacophony.
Still, the presentation entertains given the right situation, and its sheer variety is commendable. Meteos is more heavily about innovative and intuitive gameplay anyway. Learning your way around is simple, as controlling Meteos is very natural with the touch screen. Thus, you’re expected to handle the cascading torrents even with so little at your disposal. This sounds unfair at first, but the tactile interaction makes it devilishly inviting. You’ll quickly adapt and learn how to effectively vary the speed of your strokes, and you’ll naturally discover that you can “flick” meteos into the bottom of an airborne stack.
The game comes packed with value, as piles of director Masahiro Sakurai’s Super Smash Bros. influence abound. Meteos is infused with several gameplay varieties: story modes; single-planet timed, Nova-limited, or endless modes; options to adjust the Nova limit, planets you combat, and special items that you can activate; the list refuses to die. While toying with modes, you’ll discover a trove of unlockable planets, special meteos, and items. Each can be bought with a bankroll of the meteos that you’ve launched during gameplay. When something you want costs too much, you’re suckered back into the game. When you finally get your new toy, you’ll be lured in to play with it.
The combination and strong execution of multiple concepts--traditional color-matching, the intuitive tactile interface, and the overall torrential sensation--make Meteos a new, varied experience. Lumines’ grace and triple-axels really are great, but it’s time to chug twenty gallons of water, head to the most volatile snowy mountain you can find, and strap on that proverbial snowboard for an absolute puzzle-game rush. Screw the Dew. Do the Meteos.