Genre: Puzzle Developer: Sega of Japan Publisher: Sega of Japan Players: 1-4 Released: 1994
Sometimes I wonder if Sega had prejudice against the western gamers. Prejudice for very Japanese culture. The Puyo Puyo series is one example. Its very cutesy manga style theme was replaced by a bland one based on a cartoon for the first game, and the second one was completely left out. The two Puzzle & Action games also stayed in Japan , even though their simple concept could have sold many multi-taps and cartridges in the much more Mega Drive-friendly regions. Luckily enough, Puzzle & Action: Tant-R is almost entirely playable for people who don’t know Japanese. The question is just if it is worth importing.
The game consists of twenty mini-games. You can play the story game with a friend or by yourself. Then you are out to stop some big thief and his baddies through four levels. Each level is longer and harder than the last one, but the mini-games are randomized the same. It highlights four mini-games in a circular order, and you press B when you think it is the game you want to play. Repeat this four times to defeat a baddy. When all baddies are defeated on one level, you get to drive an airplane, where you must collect money and avoid bombs. That may get you an extra life. Except for the story game, there is a competition mode and a short training mode for up to four players. They aren’t exactly overwhelming with options and configurations, but rather simple, which is kind of boring.
So how are the games? They are very simple as well, but varied. The gameplay is actually not too far from how a regular Atari 2600 game would be, but looking and sounding better of course. You can put many of the games into these categories, to get a hum about how the games usually work:
*Button-mashers: Press that button or those buttons as fast as you can until the goal is reached. This one suits well for multi-player, as it doesn’t require much brain power to succeed in. If you are going to have a long evening with your friends playing this, tell them to bring their own controllers.
Pick the right one: Most options are wrong, but one is right. Get to it first or before the time runs out to succeed. Sometimes, in the cookie and robot factories, you are supposed to pick out many items. But much more often, such in the hiding ninja game or the flowers in one of four hats game, you have only one option. This type of game is surprisingly varied and forces you to use your brain power to succeed. It is not as fun when playing with a dumb guy then, but with a smart one, yes indeed.
Reflexes: Push the button exactly during the right time. Milliseconds can determine if you succeed or not. It’s different from two other categories above, so one who fails at those might have a bigger luck here.
Count them: An amount of items, for example birds or blocks, are on the screen. They are either moving around or placed upon each other to be harder to count. Not the most spectacular gameplay ever, but works out OK in multi-player at least.
Then there is a game that is exactly like Snail Maze for the Sega Master System. A little man must find his way to the goal of a huge labyrinth, which is seen from a bird perspective and NOT the 3D-view of Phantasy Star . Another game involves sorting out jewels into a vertical or horizontal line or into a box. It is actually common in real life. Most games are pretty funny to play, but you will surely find your favourites. Sometimes your brain can’t handle the epicness of RPGs or the Blast Processing of run-‘n-guns, and that is when you pick out this game or perhaps Flicky .
All games except for one are playable without knowing Japanese. That game is called “Hint”. It has dozens of symbols on the screen with different colours. A scroll with text rolls by with hints telling you which one of these symbols to pick. If you accidentally pick this game during single player mode, you are basically F’d in the A, since there is no escape from Game Over then. I gave the translation group MIJET the suggestion that this game and its sequel really deserve a dejapanation. But as a semi-retirement has been talked about, the biggest chance of enjoying the Puzzle & Action games fully are Japanese classes, I am afraid, or perhaps the PlayStation 2 version in the Sega Classics Collection , which doesn’t count.
Tanto-R doesn’t have eight layers of parallax scrolling, or any eighteen sprite multi-jointed bosses that take up half the screen. But it still gets its job done well. The design is cartoony and cute. The colours are vibrant and varied. There are no technical achievements here; instead we get clean and detailed graphics that are easy on the eyes. The sound is not very different. No hardcore techno or synthmetal that pumps your blood, but instead very happy, easy on the ears tunes that fits the theme very well. There are many sound samples that sound like they have been recorded with a SPC700, as they are very muffled. You can’t here what they are saying, but they are quite amusing nonetheless.
If you have a dumb brother or a mother still believing TV is the best way to waste away an evening with the family, let them have some Tant-R . Just remember to pick up a multi-tap first, since this is not a Dreamcast game nor a J-Cart. Puzzle & Action: Tant-R may not have put a milestone in gaming history for its technical aspects, but as a family party game it was way ahead of its time. It really deserves some attention for its fine way of handling simplicity and joyful design. Plus, it goes for peanuts.
SCORE: 8 out of 10