Today, for the inaugural Retro Game of the Day, I'll take a look at Puchi Carat, a 1997 Taito release that made it's way to both Japan and Europe. Since I've only played it on MAME, keep in mind everything here will be about the arcade version, but apparently it was also released on the PSX, the Game Boy Color, as part of both the Taito Memories 1 and Taito Legends 2 compilations for the PS2 and Xbox, and it's been released for download on the Playstation Network in Japan.
"There are twelve Special Stones in the world, known alternately as Magic Stones and Secret Stones. Millennia have passed and the secret stones found their way into the hands of twelve people. Rumor says that if one collects all twelve of these stones, your wishes will come true."
The game is basically a cross between Breakout and Bust-a-Move. You control a paddle at the bottom of the screen, that bounces between you and the bubbles at the top of the screen, which at certain intervals shifts down. However, unlike other games of this type, the ball falling past the paddle doesn't kill you. Instead, it just shifts the screen down three lines, which, while it brings the bubbles closer to filling the screen, also gives you more bubbles to work with, to possibly create a huge drop out of, which sends garbage to your opponent's field.
What the hell kind of name is Dearl?
There's 12 characters in all, each one named after a gem of some kind. They all have different attack patterns for your drops, just like in the later Bust-A-Moves. Besides that, the character you select cheers you on from behind the field, fully animated for each drop you pull off, from a simple taunt to a close up for a huge attack. When you're just starting out, this can be really distracting, or when the close-ups happen it might break your concentration, though. Other than that, there's really no difference between the characters, so it's basically all up to personal preferences on which looks the most interesting to you.
To sum it up, it's a pretty fun game. The Breakout/Bust-A-Move combination really works well, and while the characters in the background can be distracting, after a while it's not too hard to work around them. It's not something you'll sit down and play for hours on end, but it's definately something worth playing for a bit here or there. If you don't enjoy puzzle games, it won't change your mind, but otherwise, it's a great joining of two forces.