It’s good to be married to a woman who understands your basic needs for things like weird Japanese puzzle games.
A couple of weeks ago, she was visiting family in San Jose when she went into an import computer parts & video games shop. Of her own volition, I will point out.
Apparently, they had some import DS games on clearance, because she brought me home an odd little puzzle game called Kuru Kuru Chameleon.
It’s a interesting twist on the whole “match colors” genre – basically, it’s a versus game where you’re facing off against an opponent across a playfield made up of hexagons, each of which can be any of seven colors. You start off controlling one piece, and whenever it’s your turn, you can select from five of the seven colors to change it to – you can’t change to your current color, and you can’t change to your opponent’s color. Knowing this, you can deny your opponent moves by changing to a particular color.
After you’ve changed color, any uncontrolled pieces adjacent to yours that are the same color as your new color become part of your territory. You can also enclose spaces, which changes all the pieces you enclose to one color and incorporates them into your territory.
There are also some blocking hexes on the board – you can’t control them, but you can use them as barriers. Some of the characters have the ability to destroy or add blocking pieces, which adds to the strategy.
The game very quickly becomes a mix of trying to control the board and at the same time deny your opponent moves. It’s kept fresh by having random objectives – sometimes you just need to get 50% of the board under your control, sometimes you need to capture a particular hex to win, sometimes you need to enclose specific oversized pieces.
It’s pretty challenging; the CPU opponents don’t cut you a lot of slack, and the final boss can bust out some special attacks that will leave you frothing.
The downside is that, while this is decidely in the category of “color based puzzle games with cute characters”, they kind of skimped on the actual characters. You get a ditzy pink-haired girl, a violent-but-amply-chested jungle woman, and two boy characters who are so shotacon that it made me cringe to play through the game as them. If you like ’em young and weepy, though, this is the game for you.
Oh, and there’s a boss, who’s your standard ojou-sama type with a chameleon hat.
I guess I’m mostly annoyed by the characters because I don’t feel like I’m being pandered to enough. The developers didn’t even have the decency to put in a maid, or anything.
Because there are only four characters, playing through the story mode consists of selecting one of the four characters, meeting the other three, and finding reasons to challenge them to matches. After beating the other three characters, you fight the boss, lose a few times, swear mightily and eventually get a congratulations screen. Matches are pretty fast-paced, so even if you get stuck for a while the whole procedure shouldn’t take more than an hour or so.
On clearance, it was 10 bucks and well worth it. Its characters don’t manage to have any particular charms, but the game itself is fun.
Also, you can turn off the annoying little-boy voices from the options menu, and that is a good thing.
Note: After writing this, I did some searching, and apparently this has been released in the US as “Chameleon” on the PSP, with the cutesy boy characters getting a quick gender swap. Either that, or I’m drastically misinterpreting the characters in the original.
Neither option is all that appealing – on one hand, you have cute boy characters with exaggerated feminine traits who pout and cry a lot, on the other you have slightly boyish girls who pout and cry a lot.