WiiWare | Bplus | 1-8 Players (Up to four players on Wii remotes, with additional people playing co-operatively using a connected Nunchuck)
Out Now | (EU) 1,500
Controller compatibility: Wii remote; Wii remote & Nunchuck; Nunchuck (2-8 player co-op); Wii Zapper
See also: Bplus Interview - Niki Rock 'n' Ball
Reviewer: Billy White
Amongst all the usual "connect the same colour" puzzlers, every so often, there will be a completely new concept released to brighten up the samey genre. This game is both, and although it isn't the next best puzzle game ever, it manages to avoid being a total mess of destruction.
In PLTTCHEN, you have to twist and shoot your way through 100 levels of excitement, tears, laughter and torment as you attempt to save the universe from the evil shadow PL TTCHEN - a force that is trying to absorb the ZeLeLi species. You must use ZeLeLi to overcome the black PL TTCHEN, all through the method of puzzling.
In each level of PLTTCHEN, you are given a square grid with a length of 5, 7 or 9 squares (PL TTCHEN) wide. In each grid, there will be an assortment of coloured squares. You have to try and get four squares of the same colour in a straight line, either horizontally or vertically. When this happens, these PL TTCHEN are activated, and any extra squares of the same colour that are connected to the activated PL TTCHEN (in no particular pattern) are also activated. A few seconds after the first activation, all of these PL TTCHEN vanish, and are replaced by new squares that fly in from the side of the grid.
Every time you shoot a colour, you will lose one "twist", however, you can reclaim these by creating a chain of five or more PLTTCHEN to go off at once. For every PL TTCHEN added on to the four required to activate, you will gain an extra twist, meaning that you have to try and connect PL TTCHEN already on the grid, to save your own shots. It may seem complicated at first, but once you get used to it, the gameplay works really really well, and takes all the fun out of the other "colour-em-'up" puzzlers available.
To win a level, you must progress through four different stages. In each one, you start with 10 twists available and you win by earning a further 50 twists, to take your score up to 60. In each stage, you will often see changes occur, such as new enemies appearing, or different colours at your disposal, and although this system can sometimes take just a little bit too long (especially when you get towards the end of a level and lose), it's a great way of keeping each level fun and eventful throughout.
The game has some very good controls, with a twist of the remote required to spin the colour wheel and change the colour you're shooting, and a quick fire of A or B to "paint" the colour you are pointing at. The colour wheel can sometimes be a bit awkward to change at the same time as shooting, if you're trying to be quick, but this issue can be sorted with the option to freeze the colour wheel by pressing almost any button (or, if you wish, by holding down one of the fire buttons and shooting with the other one). The twisting can take a bit of getting used to, but once you "get" it, it won't take long before it starts to feel natural. There is also the option to twist with the Nunchuck if you wish, and the speed of the twisting can also be altered by pressing the left and right buttons on the D-Pad, so that you don't sprain your wrist whilst playing.
The only big problem with PLTTCHEN is the amount of complications added to the basic gameplay. When on its own, the gameplay feels great. There's loads of levels, some more puzzle-y than others, and some that are best played with less thought and more impulse shooting, but many of the levels are littered with seemingly random enemies that are designed to get in your way. These enemies will often fly across the screen, trying to run into your FantasyME (your avatar, which follows the pointer around throughout the game). If they collide, you will lose one of your six lives, and you must re-spawn by spinning the Wii remote (a process that can often frustrate and is often based on guesswork when trying to work out when you'll reappear).
Some of the enemies aren't actually that bad and can be ignored or defeated with just one shot (which isn't taken away from your magazine of twists), but some of them require several shots, and appear in massive waves that are seemingly impossible to get around. Each enemies also have different techniques to getting rid of, such as the toys that drive past in trains that you have to kill unless you want to lose a life, and the "cuddly drops" that simply get in your way until you poke the Wii remote forwards at them.
As you play through the game in classic mode, you'll encounter nine different worlds, each of which has something different about the way the game is played. Usually, that just means the inclusion of different enemies, but in some cases it means a lot more. Of course, each world has a different presentation and music, but some of them require you to dodge a flood at the bottom of the screen, keep the level alight by clicking on candles either side of the play area and looking out for flows of streaming lava that fall your way. The good thing is that you don't have to complete a full world to progress, just three out of five is enough to unlock the next set of levels.
Sometimes when it all gets too much, you may need to get rid of a group of enemies at once, which is where the Wii Zapper comes in handy. If you have the attachment, you can tilt it upright and then back down again to activate the "pump shot", which allows you to instantly kill enemies within a small range around your pointer. This is a nice addition, but we can't help but feel that the game would have just been better off in the first place with less enemies, since the pump shot can be tricky to get the hang of, takes time, and forces you to play with the Wii Zapper, which we found was a bit awkward when it came to tilting.
The only place that the game really has faults though, is with the amount of things going on at once. If Bplus had decided to make the game playable on different difficulty settings, then that would have been great, but since you end up stuck playing through some fiendishly difficult levels that seem damn near impossible to complete, they have instead chosen to frustrate everyone who plays it. Of course, this game is clearly aimed at the core gamers, but sometimes, it crosses the line and goes a little bit too far with the difficulty.
So far, so average, then. Or at least, that what you'd think. The actual fact is that the game is still a lot of fun. Sure, there are some really frustrating moments, but overall, it's a damn good puzzle game. We'd prefer it if there was a version that was just stripped down to the bare minimum of enemies, with the lives system being thrown out of the window, especially since the core of the game works really well.
There isn't just the classic mode in PLTTCHEN, and to increase play time, there are a few more modes available. In single player, there's the copycat mode, where you are given several images to copy in a set time, and the mission mode, where you must complete the objective given (which involve twisting by pushing and pulling the remote, slicking on PL TTCHEN to make them vanish and give a ZeLeLi room to escape, playing a level where you must get seven PL TTCHEN in a row instead of four, trying to avoid poisoned PL TTCHEN whilst playing, maneuvering your FantasyME through a moving level of shadow PL TTCHEN and playing a side scrolling shooter with enemies from classic mode).
The copycat mode isn't bad, but it's nothing exciting either, and the time limits can often be very tight, and whilst the mission mode is another nice bit of variety, these are also very difficult, but otherwise a nice addition nonetheless. You unlock missions and copycat levels by progressing through classic mode, and if you've got a good score, then you unlock the corresponding bonus levels (with a very good score being required for new missions). Each time you complete one of these, you gain a "time diamond". When you reach certain (unspecified) totals, you can unlock the ability to play levels in any theme, even though you don't gain high scores for these.
There are also a good selection of multiplayer modes available. Classic versus allows you to play any level as you try to get a higher score than your opponent, whereas the other modes (which can also be played with one player, if you do so wish) just add a bit of a difference to the normal levels by spinning the colour wheel for you, smashing PLATTCHEN as soon as they are activated, throwing bombs across the screen for you to avoid (in case you wanted another reason to die) or by only controlling half of the grid. They all give the game a unique twist that works well with friends as you fight to see who gets the highest score, but once again, high scores aren't saved.
"Different" gameplay aside, one of PLTTCHEN's best features is the presentation. There has clearly been a lot of work put into the graphics, music and sound, since they are all very uplifting and really brighten the atmosphere(Haunted Wood theme aside). The tunes are catchy and the visual design is very colourful and bright, and the game wouldn't be half as good without all this. During the odd bit of enemy explosion, there is a bit of slowdown at times, but this is very rare, and we wouldn't have settled for anything less.
Overall, PLTTCHEN twist 'n' paint is a very mixed package. The game plays and looks great, and the extra modes add loads of play time to it, but throughout the experience, the difficulty is all over the place and often takes a turn from "hard" to "painfully difficult". For core gamers, this is a very good puzzler, and comes recommended to anyone with two brains. With just one though, there will often be too much going on for the most part as the game takes every opportunity it can to add in something new. The good thing about that is that you never know what's coming next, with the constant surprises, new missions and differing themes ensuring you'll never get bored.
Without the overload of obstacles, this game would easily have been the next best puzzle game ever
It's always easy to see what's going on, and the graphics and sound should take your mind off the frustration
You'll no doubt enjoy this game very much if you can cope with the difficulty, but for everyone else, it is more likely to cause tears rather than laughter
The developers claimed it has over 100 hours of play time, and to unlock everything, that seems just about right,