Pucca Power Up
Publisher: Rising Star Games
Developer: Barunson Creative
Platform: Nintendo DS
Released: 13th May
Despite starting out as a Japanese children’s television character, Pucca’s simple speech bank of usually no more than a couple of chirpy exclamations and cheerful yelps has broken down language barriers to make Pucca something of a brand. But given that the game’s target audience is small children (whom, for some reason, are often believed by developers to not be worth the effort of making a good game) this could have easily been overlooked as another piece of flimsy kids merchandise. This must be why it is such a pleasant surprise to play it and realise it’s actually quite a fun 2D platform game.
To start out with, you play as Pucca, a 10 year old with a crush on the slightly older ninja-in-training Garu, aged 12. Pucca persists in chasing Garu around in an elaborate game of kiss-chase spanning many different levels and themed worlds. Garu, of course, doesn’t feel the same way about Pucca, which is why he tries to run away and hide from her, instead preferring to focus on his goal to rebuild his family in accordance with his father’s will and become a great ninja. However, regular role reversals mean you get to play as Garu and for these sections lead the chase, although you constantly switch back and forth throughout the game’s six worlds.
That’s not to imply there are the time pressures of a chase situation; in fact, the game is suited for kids thanks to its moderate level of difficulty initially, with the guiding hand of the eternal deity Master Su teaching you the controls and mechanisms in place for the first few tutorial stages. Pucca Power Up then gently develops in its challenge as you progress with the story, because although you start out maiming kitty-cats with your steel handbag and arrows in your quest for a your crush, taking control of Garu means you must fend off impromptu attacks from rival ninjas, and as the story unfolds Garu’s kidnapping calls for Pucca to rescue him. A number of sizeable boss battles during the game help to add some variation to level structure too, as do the mini-games which occur from time to time.
The layout of Pucca Power Up is much like that of New Super Mario Bros DS – even levels are presented in the same format of 1-1, 1-2, and so on. Star Coins have been replaced by gingerbread men, of which there are 3 each level and collected gingerbread men can be spent in the shop on upgrades for your maximum health and ammo limit for projectile attacks, or buying the in-game cut scenes and mini-games you’ve encountered so you can watch/play them freely from the main menu. There’s only a handful of mini-games to play, but they are all fun, stylus-based score challenges that are easy to get sucked into if you try to top your high score.
Certain aspects of the graphics look like they were made with the 3DS in mind – despite the game being launched on DS – such as the cut scenes made up of 3D characters, and some visual effects like when a ninja-star-spitting box flies towards the screen after you have clobbered it. It may be a 2D side-scrolling adventure, but there’s an element of depth to the levels visually, as well. On the whole, the visual presentation of the game is cute and colourful, with some grainy textures as a result of the DS’s shortcomings, but it can’t detract from the playful world full of quirky characters.
The game comes across as very Japanese, but I’m thankful Rising Star Games made the effort to bring it to Western regions, because while it may not be of the same calibre of the New Super Mario Bros game it models itself so closely on, it’s only a notch below and there’s some solid, simple platforming fun to be had. It doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not; it’s so beautifully basic that it works well and is easy to pick up for youngsters, but with enough challenge in the later levels to provide something for more experienced players. Mini-games, boss-battles and quirky characters provide a break from adventuring when needed. The only major drawback is that it would have better being longer, because as it stands, even with the occasional bonus level purchased from the shop, the story mode is over fairly quickly with around 3, 4 or 5 levels each world, contained inside 6 worlds in total. Longevity-aside though, it’s wacky but it’s well worth it due to straight forward, satisfying platforming.
- Textbook platforming
- Cute characters and cut scenes
- Mini-games and boss battles provide change of pace
- Accessible for kids but challenging enough to be enjoyable for all
- Short lifespan
- Potentially not enough challenge for some gamers