The Japanese puzzler finally hits US shores, but do Western gamers want something new?
Gunpey EX gets kudos from me for being a genuinely innovative puzzle title. There are no falling blocks, groups of three to match together, or other genre mainstays. Videogames are no longer in their infancy, and it has become increasingly rare to actually experience something new. So in that sense, I was glad to see this mobile port of the late Gunpei Yokoi's Gunpey picked up for a US release.
On the flipside, "new" doesn't necessarily translate into "fun." Gunpey and it's sequels have long been hits in Japan, first appearing on the WonderSwan, and later the WonderSwan Color, among other systems. Yet I had a hard time getting into the experience, and frankly don't see what all the fuss is about.
The gameplay presents gamers with a grid-based well, which slowly starts to fill with wires, from bottom to top. Wires can be shifted up or down within their own column. When a complete, unbroken circuit is made from the left side to the right, the wires disappear. More skilled players can create more complex circuits by utilizing branching paths, and otherwise involving as many wires as possible in a completed circuit.
The game includes Stages, Endless, and Time Attack modes, and all three are high-score enabled, giving the package more value than is present in most mobile puzzlers. The visuals are lackluster, even by puzzle standards, but I have a hard time imagining the type of gamer that was considering Gunpey EX, and ultimately decided to pass because it wasn't flashy enough. Sound design isn't quite as functional, unfortunately. The one background tune is unbelievably obnoxious. Normally when gamers complain about "bad music" in games I never understood their hatred, but I literally turned EX's tune off after something like 30 seconds. The sound effects aren't much better. Ever time you complete a circuit a voice shouts "OK!" or "NICE!" at you.
Annoying sound aside, I had a hard time getting into Gunpey's gameplay. It's been such a hit in Japan that part of me feels like the problem is more with me than the game. Then the more rational part of me kicks in, and I realize that being more drawn to Lumines, Puzzle Fighter, or Tetris instead isn't anything to be ashamed about.
The fact is Gunpey's focus on individual circuits instead of complex combos coupled the clunky vertical shuffling of the wires made it an experience I couldn't lose myself in, like so many other titles. Still, it's good to see that the puzzle genre still has life left, and Gunpey EX is a fairly robust package. I encourage gamers to try it for themselves, to see if it matches up with their gaming tastes.
What's Hot: A puzzle concept that actually isn't derivative.
What's Not: Really annoying music and sound effects