Everything old is old again.
Nintendo might not be responsible for the most famous puzzle game of all time, Tetris, but they have crafted a number of excellent entries into the genre. Two of those games are Dr. Mario and Panel de Pon (better known as Tetris Attack or Pokemon Puzzle League in the states). Nintendo has dipped into the archives and pulled out both of them to include on a new double-game GBA cartridge.
Dr. Mario is reminiscent of the Nintendo 64 version of the game, which isn't a good thing. The gameplay is identical to the original, but changes to other aspects of the game leave it somewhat lacking. The biggest problem lies not in the gameplay itself but with the hardware. There is a lot of interface taking up space on the GBA's (or DS') small screen. With such a small amount of real estate, it's puzzling as to why so much space was taken up with large images of Mario and the viruses flanking the play field. The actual play area takes up less than fifty percent of the screen, and as a result the viruses in the bottle are incredibly small, making the game more difficult to play than it should be.
Other minor changes to the game take away from the charm of the original title. The new graphics, taken from the N64 Dr. Mario, feature terrible cartoon versions of Mario and the Viruses. A more glaring change is in the music. While both the original "Fever" and "Chill" tunes are included, they have been remixed. The new versions of them, along with the two new songs, aren't as catchy as the classic music. It would have been nice to have an option to listen to the original music.
Puzzle League has received a bigger makeover. It's lacking any theme whatsoever, from any iteration of the classic title. All the charm has been stripped, and what's left, while still lots of fun, doesn't feel quite as enjoyable. On the bright side, the game is now highly customizable. There are multiple skins for the play field and a host of rules that can be turned on and off. There's even a vertical mode that rotates the play field 90 degrees counter-clockwise.
These are both classic puzzle games, and putting them on the GBA only serves to give gamers another way to play them. Excluding some of Dr. Mario's image-size issues, it's really hard to complain about these games. They're basically the same as they have always been, minus the aesthetics. Puzzle game fans have probably played both of these games before. Pick this game up only if you're looking to play them on the go.