Who doesn't like a good puzzle game? Short, snappy levels that get your grey matter ticking over are great for filling in five or ten minutes here or there - whether it's a quick blast on Bejewelled, a Professor Layton brain teaser or two, or clearing some lines on Tetris, they're great time sinks. But the problem with many of them is once you're done, you're done - once you've Picross-ed through all the puzzles or played through the entire point and click adventure, it's time to move on to the next game - something that isn't all that easy when the shop shelves are mostly filled with Fifa and Call of Duty. But that's where downloadable stores come in. A veritable gold mine of simple little games, the 3DS store in particular has enough choice for even the most voracious of puzzle fans - and the latest title to join the ranks is Pazuru, a game that actually has very little to do with the cutesy Ninja that adorns it.
Pazuru is a fairly simplistic little puzzle game in which you guide a moving line around various obstacles to collect all the stars in a level. The twist? You aren't controlling the line directly - instead, you'll need to move various parts of the level around, to help bounce the constantly moving line through each stage. Pressing the A button does everything, and transforms all of the obstacles at once - so while you may be concentrating on rotating one of the wedge shaped bumpers with the intent of sending your line off in one direction, when you press the button, all the other similar blocks will be rotating too, so you'll have to think about how best to manipulate things and the order in which you get each of the stars. The fewer button presses you use to complete the level, the higher your final score will be.
As you play, new obstacles and abilities are unlocked at a fairly steady pace to keep things interesting. To begin with, you simply have wedge-shaped, rotatable bumpers to use to deflect your line, but before long there's triangles that can be turned on and off, blocks that can take a hit before they break and warp holes that teleport your line to a different part of the stage. About half way through, you learn how to draw a line by holding down the L/R button to form a makeshift wall - something which you'll need to use fairly often, to give yourself something to bounce off or act as a barrier between you and the game-ending spikes.
Given that your line is constantly moving around the screen, you sometimes need to be pretty speedy with your button presses, lest it go ploughing into a spiked wall - at which point its game over. And with only the A button with which to rotate the pieces, there's only one way round you can twizzle things, which can lead to some furious button mashing at times as you rush to rotate it round the right way before your line comes back. Often, we found ourselves getting a tad carried away with our button presses in our hurry, almost always pressing it a few too many times and sending our dot careening off into a wall - thankfully there's no lives to worry about, with the only consequence of death being having to start over from the beginning of the stage. And given that each stage is only a few seconds long, it's not really a huge problem.
It's a concept that's perhaps harder to explain than it is to play. In fact, most of Pazuru's puzzles are pretty straightforward and take only a handful of tries to perfect - which isn't necessarily a problem, but it does mean that you blow through the games seventy or so puzzles in a fairly short time. It's a shame really, seeing as it's a pretty nifty little downloadable puzzle game, but when compared to other such games on the store it comes up a bit short - by comparison original Pullblox has some 180 stages, and Picross e has around 150, both of which cost the same £4.49 as Pazuru.
All in all, Pazuru is a nice little puzzle game while it lasts. Easy to understand and play, it's only real downfall is its brevity - you can probably get full marks on all the puzzles in the game in the space of a few hours. It's a nice concept and rather addictive, and you could do much, much worse for a fiver on the eShop, but we just wish it had about twice as many levels.
Format Reviewed: Nintendo 3DS