Reviews

Gunpey

Arun Subramanian
Left: Nintendo DS; Right: Sony PSP

Rarely has the same game, by the same developers, been so different from platform to platform.


Publisher: Namco Bandai
Genres: Puzzle
Platforms: PSP
Price: $39.99
Multimedia: Gunpey
Display Artist: Q/Koto
Number of players: 1-2
ESRB rating: Everyone 10+
Developer: Koto
US release date: 2006-11-14
Developer website

Publisher: Namco Bandai
Genres: Puzzle
Platforms: Nintendo DS
Price: $29.99
Multimedia: Gunpey DS
Display Artist: Q/Koto
Number of players: 1-4
ESRB rating: Everyone 10+
Developer: Koto
US release date: 2006-11-17
Developer website

Many people are familiar with prolific game designers -- Kojima, Miyamoto, Molyneux, and so on. But how often do you hear about people that made contributions in hardware? I admit, even as something of a gaming fanatic, I hadn't ever really heard of Gunpei Yokoi. I'd played Nintendo's Game and Watch games as a kid. Of course there was the Game Boy. Though it made much less of a splash, I'd even heard of the Wonderswan. In 1997, 2 years before the Wonderswan was released, the man behind these systems, Yokoi died in a car wreck. The first game released for the Wonderswan was a puzzle game, titled "Gunpey" in his honor. Now, much as it did with Every Extend Extra, Q Entertainment, the studio behind Lumines, has decided to remake Gunpey.

The premise of Gunpey, as it is with any puzzle game worth it's salt, is disarmingly simple. The player is tasked with vertically moving icons representing different line orientations on a forward-moving grid, in order to make a complete horizontal line across the screen. This line is then removed from gameplay, after giving the player a brief window of time in which to chain additional line segments onto it. The mechanics of the game eventually present themselves to you in an "Aha!" moment, during which your proficiency at the game progresses by leaps and bounds. Unfortunately, the system isn't quite as elegant as, say, Tetris, and you get a sense the luck factors in more than it should. Pretty much any piece can be positioned in its vertical column to become a potential linker, for lack of a better term. There doesn't ever seem to really be any doubt about how to proceed in terms of making a line from one side of the screen to the other. The problem is that sometimes, columns will remain empty for agonizingly long periods of time, during which you're waiting for anything to show up, not just the one piece that would make a difference.

Setting aside the gameplay, as puzzle games really only warrant a cursory discussion of the mechanics, the thing that's so interesting about Gunpey is the difference in the way it's presented on two different platforms. To my knowledge, Q has never before launched a game on multiple platforms. Further, in this the day and age of multiplatform games being the norm, with people on either side of the fence quibbling over fairly minor technical differences from platform to platform, Q has genuinely made Gunpey a completely different experience on the PSP and Nintendo DS.

I primarily played the PSP version of Gunpey at first. As with almost any music/puzzle hybrid that Q Entertainment seems to put out these days, particularly on a system that has sufficient horsepower, the PSP version is hypnotic. It almost seems to pulse in your hands as you're playing it. As a synaesthetic experience, it is yet another solid entry from Q. As a game, however, the control makes for a frustrating experience. Using the D-pad to vertically move pieces is fairly difficult, because you can only move a selected piece one square at a time. On several occasions, I lost not because I didn't know what to do quickly enough, but because I couldn't wrestle with the interface fast enough to put my plan into action. I was convinced that there was an interesting game there, however, and so, even though this review was initially concerned only with the PSP version, I decided to seek out the Nintendo DS version as well.

Firing it up, I was taken aback at first by the difference in presentation. While PSP Gunpey has the standard Q touches mentioned above, with no characters or story to speak of, on the DS, it's essentially been packaged as a kids' game, even more bubbly and cartoony than a previous DS offering by Q Entertainment, Meteos. The problem is that Q fares much better when it creates games that serve as fusions of spare yet futuristic design elements and primal, beat driven rhythms than it tries anything else. As such, the aesthetics of DS Gunpey are actually somewhat irritating. What the DS does bring to the table, however, is a control scheme that could never hope to be accomplished on the PSP. Finally, I was able to select which piece I wanted to move simply by touching and dragging it, as opposed to navigating to it with the PSP's D-pad and awkwardly moving it one square at a time.

Surely the differences in technical abilities between the PSP and DS had a hand in the different design aesthetics of the 2 versions. Still, the DS has shown that it is capable of interesting presentation when it comes to colors and music. Last year's innovative Elektroplankton release comes to mind. I likely would have been more pleased with the game on the DS if its design elements were spare in that way. However, even stripped to its barest elements, Gunpey still isn't exceptional. It won't set a new standard for puzzle games, and I'd be surprised if we saw a sequel. It is still fun for a while, however, and which version you prefer will certainly depend on whether you value design elements more than control schemes, or the other way around.

6

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image