Don't let the wacky box art fool you, its creamy center is actually a pretty good puzzle game.
No No No Puzzle Chailien might have first caught your attention with its peculiar box art. Or, perhaps you heard of it when seeing the game mode where you cook delicious Japanese treats in a microwave oven. There's also the possibility that the wacky Japanese commercial with a pig riding a bike got you interested. No matter the reason, I'm here to set everyone straight on the matter. The game isn't as oddball you have been led to believe. Developer Creatures has applied a simple rotating tile mechanic to three different games, with the results in each making for a solid puzzle package.
The control setup is the heart of Puzzle Chailien. The game includes three very different game modes, but all of them share the same basic control rules. A 2×2 cursor is moved around the screen with the D-Pad, and whatever is highlighted by it can be rotated clockwise with the A Button, and counter-clockwise with the B Button. The only other function that comes into play is the R Button, which speeds up the action depending on the game you're playing. Such simplistic controls never get in the way of what you're doing, meaning mistakes made are ultimately the fault of the player, not the control scheme.
The three games of Chailien are Kurukuru Range, Kurukuru Walk, and Kurupachi 6. Each one has a different take on what to do with the given control scheme, and beyond that, the Walk and Kurupachi games expand on their own concepts into sub-games. Range is the simplest game of the trio, Kurupachi is the most complex, and Walk is between. I'll keep it easy and explain them one at a time, starting with first.
Kurukuru Range is the reason why there is a delicious Japanese dish on the front cover. In wacky Japanese fashion, the game takes place inside of a microwave, which is divided up into a grid pattern. A food item is placed on one square, and a hole is placed on another. The goal of the game is to move the item to the hole using the rotating tile mechanic in the allotted time. If successful, the microwave will open and you'll get to see a tasty treat. For instance, if you drop in a cow, a beef bowl will show up inside once the cookin's done. Every so often, you'll need to move the food along a fixed route, and successfully doing it in that case will award you with a family-sized meal version.
Aside from being bizarre, the purpose of Range is to cook as long as you can until you can't cook no more. That is, until you can't guide the food items to the holes before the timer runs out. The difficulty does ramp up by putting items farther away from holes and putting multiple items on screen at once, but in the end it's all about how precise you can be with the cursor. This mode feels very much like Wario Ware, as the control is basic and the music and timer both speed up as you get deeper into it. Unlike Wario Ware, though, every time you play through it is exactly the same, from where items are placed, which order the items come in, and needing to listen to same piece of music over and over again. This makes Kurukuru Range nothing more than a quick diversion if you need a break from playing the other two games, which are much deeper.
Kurukuru Walk is also a little strange, but there's more to do here than in Range. The task at hand for walking is to guide a little creature named Walker across a series of panels. There are gaps in the floor that must be patched up by roatating in tiles from above or below (using the same control setup) so the hero can continue forward. Some tiles will collapse quickly unless Walker is told to run past them, which can be achieved by holding down the R Button. Bombs and enemies also show up, making this mode a little more than just a walk in the park.
Kurukuru Walk has two modes, the play-forever Endurance test and the Man-Kuri speed challenge. Walk's Endurance mode is similar to Kurukuru Range in that you just keep playing for as long as you can. It's also similar in that the patterns are exactly the same everytime you restart it, and since you can play Endurance for a longer period of time than Range, it makes it more tedious to improve a high score. There is some variety in the Endurance mode, however, as it's possible to select from three different (though still preset) difficulty settings.
Perhaps the better mode to try in the Walk game is Man-Kuri. In this mode, your goal is to get Walker through five sets of five short stages each as fast as possible. Each set has a time goal, and reaching it is a matter of repetition and finding the most efficient way of quickly rotating the preset tile pattern. The length and setup of Man-Kuri is much better compared the long and drawn-out Endurance mode, and playing a stage numerous times to whittle some time off that clock is much more tolerable.
The Range and Walk games are underwhelming and a little boring, and wouldn't make for an interesting GBA title if they were by themselves. No No No Puzzle Chailien has three games, though, and the third is really the star attraction. Kurupachi 6 is a puzzle game that is almost good enough to stand alone, as it has a good variety of gameplay types, and multiplayer too.
Still using the same control scheme as the Range and Walk games, the task with Kurupachi is to line up balls numbered 3 through 6 inside an 8×8 playfield. Lining up three 3's will turn them into 4's. Lining up four 4's will turn them into 5's, and so on until six 6's are lined up, which then disappear. This system allows for giant chain-reaction combos and the possibility of clearing huge chunks of the board at once, which leads to huge points. There are four game types in Kurpachi 6's lineup: Puzzle, Score Attack, Chain Attack, and Multiplayer.
The Puzzle mode has 198 preset boards, and it's up to you to figure out what numbers to spin to clear everything in one combo. 99 of the puzzles can be solved in one spin, and the other 99 require two spins or more to get everything done. Just about all of the one-spin puzzles and most of the multi-spin puzzles are pretty simple upon understanding how the game system works, but the somef of the multi-move puzzles are downright nasty. Some of them are bona fide stumpers, and once you figure out the moves to make, you'll kick yourself for not seeing the solution sooner. The sheer number of puzzles to wade through takes enough time as it is, but trying to get through the hard stuff quickly isn't going to happen. Expect to spend a good deal of time finishing all the puzzles.
Score Attack will probably be the mode you wind up playing the most. The idea for this mode is to get the best score possible, of course, but the method of doing so is strange. A meter to the side of the playfield slowly drains until enough numbers have been cleared off the board to activate a slot machine. Stopping the slots and matching up three of the same character in a row (which is easy to do) will start a separate timer, and give all scoring during the new time period a multiplier based off of what the slots match up on. Once the scoring timer runs out, time is added back to the main clock depending on how well you do with the multiplier. Then, you match up numbers again until the slots come back.
The main clock really doesn't have that much time on it to start, which causes a premium to be put on getting as many points and chains as fast as possible. This makes Chailien's Kurupachi 6 game fast and furious. It can be made even faster by the different difficulty settings, which speed up how quickly the numbers change once a match is made. Trying to setup big clearances can be a challenge, and since that's where the big points are at, most of your resources should be placed there. If you would like to just see how long you can keep that chain going, then Chain Attack will let you do that. You just keep going until your chain stops. For all modes, you can start multiple chains off at once in different areas of the playfield, which is very important to increase chain counts and score tallies that much faster.
Chailien has an advantage by having the three different game types. You'll probably play Kurupachi the most, since it's the best of the lot. However, there may be times where you become a little frustrated with a puzzle, or maybe you just played a really long Chain Attack session and need a break from the numbers game. Instead of popping in a different GBA cart, you can just switch over to Walk mode and try to improve on a Man-Kuri time, or see how much cooking you can do in Range. Even though the Range and Walk games are pretty weak when compared to Kurupachi 6, the fact that they are there on the same game cart gives you variety. You probably wouldn't play Kurukuru Range or Walk more than a handful of times if it was the only thing to do, but because of the other stuff along side, you will play everything a lot more. The game can be picked up and played many times because of this, since every time you do you can play something different.
If you're looking for a puzzle game to plug a hole in your GBA library, give No No No Puzzle Chailien a shot. The meaty Kurupachi 6 is a great game by itself, and even though Kurukuru Range is very repetitive, and Kurukuru Walk is sometimes boring, switching between the games every so often mixes things up just enough for all the games to get their fair share of play time. Using the same control scheme for three different games is a neat idea, and the simplicity of the control setup helps to make this a good pick-up-and-play game too. If you can bare some of the boring parts, or you can't get enough of that Japanese home cooking, then say "Yes Yes Yes" to No No No Puzzle Chailien.
This game is unlikely to ever be released outside of Japan, so if it sounds like something you'd want to play, you can import a copy from yourself from Lik-Sang.