“Hang on a minute,” you might be thinking. “Puzznic? That Taito puzzler from 1989 that was ported to pretty much every platform under the sun? Lewd? What are you sniffing?”
Sweaty tights, dear reader, but I digress. The lewd is, of course, why we’re here. Because yes, Puzznic does indeed have origins as a lewd game. I know, I was as surprised as you are, particularly given the cutesy PlayStation version that I have the most experience with. That has a distinctly Halloween-type vibe going on and, aesthetically at least, has very little to do with the original arcade version!
Puzznic first hit arcades in Japan in 1989. Puzzle games were really starting to hit their stride in this era following the spread of Tetris — particularly its astronomically popular Game Boy version, which also came out in 1989 — and thus it was understandable that every company wanted a piece of the pie.
The puzzle game format was particularly ideal for the arcades, because it allowed skilled players to feel like they were achieving something while also keeping sessions nice and short for a good turnover of players. And thus we saw quite a few interesting puzzle games in the arcades in the late ’80s and early ’90s.
Puzznic combines elements of falling block, tile-matching and box-pushing puzzles, leading some to describe it as a blend of Tetris and Sokoban. Each stage provides you with a predefined layout of boxes, each of which is marked with a coloured symbol. You can move these boxes horizontally so long as there is nothing in the way, and they are affected by gravity. Line up two or more of the same design next to one another and they disappear. Clear all the boxes to beat the level. Easy, right?
Mechanically, yes. In execution? Not on your nelly. It doesn’t take long for Puzznic to start challenging you with some seriously awkward patterns to deal with, where moving things in the correct order and with the right timing becomes super-important. Many levels incorporate moving platforms, which can be used to move boxes to place that cannot be reached through the normal mechanics, or which sometimes simply get in the way and demand proper timing.
There’s very much a single “correct” solution to each level, though the game does make it appear that it might be desirable to achieve combos and chains as in more conventional colour-matching puzzlers. In practice, this isn’t really possible, since you can’t move things while tiles are in the process of “matching” with one another — though some later levels do demand that you set up chain reactions in order to clear the stage.
Each level is set against a strict time limit, and in the arcade original you are allowed two “retries” within that time limit; these reset the puzzle back to its original position in case you make an irreversible mistake. Which you will. Often. Run out of retries and mess things up, however, and you’ll often have to just wait out the time limit; the game does sometimes detect when a puzzle has become unsolvable, but not always!
So where’s the lewd? You guessed it, the link is, as always for arcade games, somewhat tenuous. In the Japanese version of the game, you’ll notice that each stage starts with a girl’s “signature” in the upper right corner of the screen. And as you clear each stage, bricks from the background will disappear, gradually revealing a digitised photograph of a young lady (usually Japanese in origin, despite the distinctly western names used throughout) who, not to put too fine a point on it, has her baps out. Reveal a full image and you’re rewarded with a momentary erection and a pleasing blippity bloop noise, then the process repeats.
Interestingly, the revealing of the images doesn’t seem to quite match up with the progression of stages; instead, the amount revealed at one time appears to be determined by how long you took to solve the stage. This means that while Puzznic as a whole is split up into discrete “blocks” of stages (or “problems”, as it calls them), the images of the girls don’t necessarily correspond to your progress through the game; it’s a separate means of measuring your… progress, of sorts. Essentially, play the game faster — and thus attain higher scores — and you get to see more boobies. Now there’s an incentive for your average arcade player.
Unsurprisingly, the lewd angle was removed from the game for most of its localised versions and ports to home computers and consoles, and in the west the game is best known in its “clean” incarnation. The Japanese port to the Fujitsu FM Towns home computer kept the lewd content present, however — it even provided a special “Gal” toggle for those who wished a more innocent experience and/or had parents watching. This version also provided a few additional features, such as bombs to destroy individual blocks that you weren’t able to incorporate into proper solutions.
The game was well-received in its home incarnations here in the west, most of which were developed by Ocean Software. Amiga Power magazine ranked Puzznic as the 34th best Amiga game of all time in their May 1991 issue, while the November 1990 issue of The One magazine described the Atari ST version as having “that elusive ‘one more go’ quality” and gave it a thoroughly respectable score of 88%. Neither publication appeared aware that this is a game that used to have titties in it.
Well, now you know. Puzznic is a game that used to have titties in it — but the only way you’ll get to see those titties is if you play either the Japanese arcade version or the Fujitsu FM Towns port by Ving. I will leave you with that information and invite you to have a thoroughly lovely day.
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