UK publisher Rising Star Games has developed itself a reputation for bringing Japanese oddities to gamers in PAL territories, be it inventive puzzle games, the oddity that is Deadly Premonition or the outrageously stylish titles in Grasshopper Manufacture’s No More Heroes series. Pucca Power-Up joins that line-up with something distinctive; something all of its own.
. Pucca Power-Up plays as a fairly traditional 2D Platform game. Running from left to right (occasionally returning for hidden areas or items), the player must tackle enemies and gaps in the land, clamber to new heights and collect hidden items for special bonuses, and all of this is performed with just the D-Pad and two buttons. Linking the levels are a map which has obviously been borrowed from a certain series developed by the console manufacturer, also with its own intricacies.
The mini-games featured in Pucca Power-Up are where the touchscreen embedded in the Nintendo DS console comes into play. A handful of different games are available during the adventure (and can be unlocked for play directly from the main menu) both of which are based on familiar arcade game tropes. One is essentially a light gun game, depicting ninjas and asking the player to swipe them to remove them from play, and another works as a whack-a-mole type game in which you must tap the Garu character and avoid crates and other objects. Hardly essentially additions, hey won’t be played as unique gameplay experiences despite the option being available, but they do act as a nice respite from the Platform action at just the rights points.
The plot line of Pucca Power-Up is somewhat bizarre, and could possibly be the biggest hurdle for some. Chasing after the aforementioned Garu, a boy Pucca suddenly becomes interested in during the intro sequence, the ultimate goal is to kiss and cement your infatuation. The tables are turned, allowing the gameplay to add a degree of tension as you are pursued.
Pucca Power-Up won’t be difficult for experienced gamers, for the most part it will be a simple exercise of the rules you learned so well twenty years ago. However, it will trick you at times; the occasional clever design hook that can throw your safe run out of the windows can be a real sting in your confident win streak.
Pucca Power-Up makes poor use of the hardware at its disposal, to say the least. Looking like a PlayStation-era 3D adventure, with plenty of unsightly jagged polygons and low rent textures clashing with 2D objects. That being said, it still has a great deal of unique character. Obviously inherited from its original source material, Pucca Power-Up is both quirky and comical, often in equal measure. There once was a time when a great deal of the videogames that made it to UK store shelves featured some sort of eastern oddity, but that time has now passed. Pucca Power-Up presents the kind of quintessentially Japanese experience that many feel they are missing out on in the modern industry.
There’s a number of videogame releases on the Nintendo DS that have been passed over recently. Whether it is the reputation of the system as a console that forgot the core demographic or simply the case of it having reached its twilight years, there are many titles that have been worth looking into that may not have been as widely appreciated as they perhaps should have been. Pucca Power-Up doesn’t quite fit that bill, it’s not the kind of game to convince you to rush out and buy hardware you don’t already own, but for fans it’ll be no less enjoyable. A Japanese oddity that’ll many will immediately fall in love with, Pucca Power-Up is let down by it’s lack of difficulty and poor visual quality.