Monday, June 8, 2009

demo monday: yosumin!

it is so adorable I must say, I had a bit of trouble fishing around for a demo this week. After my disappointment last week at the hands of Rock Band: Unplugged, I decided that I wanted to go back to something a little more off the beaten path – that is to say, another one of those indie games we love so much around these parts. First, I tried Puzzle Quest Galatrix, but I found I didn’t have anything to say about it. Then, I tried the Light of Altair demo, but I really didn’t get it and didn’t want to review something that I didn’t thoroughly understand. Then, I found what I was looking for – a sweet, cheap little puzzle game from Square Enix by the name of Yosumin!

I have something of a hot/cold relationship with puzzle games. I certainly like them – there was a month or two where all I played was Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords and Meteos on my faithful DS – but I’m not always in the mood for them. Regardless of mood, I can always appreciate a good one, especially if it’s not just some mindless Tetris variant. How did Yosumin! tickle my fancy? Hit the jump to find out!

Some history: Yosumin! was originally released for the Nintendo DS in Japan in 2007. Because of its mechanics, which I will discuss below, that is probably the platform on which it would be the most at home, but I can respect the business sense it makes to bring this to the States as a downloadable title on Steam and the Xbox Live Arcade. As a boxed retail product on this side of the ocean, it would probably have its niche but ultimately be passed up in favor of some Pokeymen or something.

Like many puzzle games, Yosumin! starts with color matching, and works its way out from there. In this particular game, you’re trying to form rectangles in which the four corners are the same color. Allow me to demonstrate via screenshot:

i think this pretty well avails itself As you can see, that rectangle has four yellow corners. When you select it, all the blocks in the rectangle will change to match the color of the corner pieces, disappear, and be replaced. You’re unlimited by size – a rectangle can be a  two-by-two square or a board-clearing sweep from corner to corner (the latter is called a Yosumin!, hence the name of the game).

In Adventure mode, each map has a different objective. Sometimes you just have to clear a certain amount of each tile color. Other times, you can only clear the level by making matches with very small or very large numbers of blocks. Other times, there are special pieces strewn about the playing field which you must pick up by catching matching surrounding pieces. Sometimes the timer just runs out really fast, or giant yosumin appear and throw off your game. It’s the same basic concept all the way through, but the game’s designers tweak the formula often enough that it doesn’t get tired.

There’s not a lot else to say about it, except that the demo is time-limited to an hour and I played all the way up until it made me stop without noticing. Aside from the Adventure mode, there’s an Endless mode, which I imagine lets you play one board for a high score until the timer runs out. As you can tell from the screens, the graphics are typically Japanese and adorable, and the sounds match. The soundtrack is pleasant filler, but you should feel free to play your own tunes instead if that’s more your speed.

Retail price is $10 on all platforms, so if you’re a fan of good puzzle games this one’s a buy. If this is what it’s like when Square Enix makes something that isn’t a melodramatic RPG, I think they need to venture off that path a little more often.

Yosumin! is currently available on Steam for $9.99, and Yosumin! Live is available on the Xbox Live Arcade for 800 Microsoft Points. Played PC version in single-player Adventure mode until the demo’s time limit expired.