YU-NAMA: The Puzzle - Minion mayhem on PlayStation Mobile

This is Portabliss, a column about downloadable games that can be played on the go.

Review Snapshot  YUNAMA The Puzzle

If you own a PSP, you may already be familiar with Acquire's RTS-like YU-NAMA series. NIS America released the first two entries stateside as Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman! After Bruce Wayne's lawyers stepped in, the games were retitled What Did I Do to Deserve This, My Lord!? Sony further complicated matters when it later localized the third entry in the series as No Heroes Allowed!

At this point, it might just be easier to refer to the series by its Japanese title, Yuusha no Kuse ni Namaikida. Sony apparently agrees, as a PlayStation Mobile-exclusive spinoff game was recently released in North America as YU-NAMA: The Puzzle. It's a shame that the series can't seem to hold on to a single consistent title, as it means that PS Vita owners might miss out on one of PlayStation Mobile's best releases to date.

Review Snapshot  YUNAMA The Puzzle
Like its predecessors, YU-NAMA: The Puzzle charges you with protecting an evil overlord from an invading army of heroes. You can't attack these do-gooders directly, so you'll need to summon monsters in order to kill them off before they can reach your master. It's all quite tongue-in-cheek -- your assistant Badman is a buffoonish sort, and the goofy pixel-art illustrations ensure the story never takes itself too seriously.

YU-NAMA plays like a mixture of Mr. Driller and a match-three puzzler. The playfield is filled with blocks that represent monsters under your control. Touching individual tiles on the playfield destroys them, and causes overhead bricks to drop.

When three or more like-colored bricks are connected horizontally or vertically, they "level up" into a single brick representing a more powerful creature, and a monster is summoned to attack incoming heroes. Combos and chains yield more powerful monster attacks. The object is to ward off each level's army of heroes through a combination of quick matches and skillful monster-leveling.

The heroes won't go down without a fight, however. If you fail to drain a hero's life completely within a few turns, he or she will change a few of your monster blocks into stone, making them useless until you can destroy them with an adjacent match. This provides a good incentive to finish off heroes as quickly and as brutally as possible. It's satisfying -- in an evil sort of way -- to turn the tables on well-meaning knights, mages, and clerics, choking them with swarms of creatures before they get a chance to attack.

Review Snapshot  YUNAMA The Puzzle
While you can clear the first few stages by making basic matches, later levels demand more advanced strategies. In addition to being able to destroy playfield bricks, players are also able to slide tiles left and right in order to fill spaces left by destroyed blocks. You'll need to do this quickly, however, as overhead blocks will quickly drop and fill gaps. The sliding mechanic recalls high-level play in Tetris Attack, which makes it a shame that YU-NAMA lacks a multiplayer component.

YU-NAMA's brilliance lies in the skillful adaptation of its source material. The series' trademark brick-busting, hero-slaying action survives the genre shift intact, and it may even fit better in the context of a puzzler than a real-time strategy game.

I'm not much of an RTS player, so the gameplay in previous YU-NAMA games never clicked with me, even though I liked the underlying aesthetic and concept. Thanks to YU-NAMA: The Puzzle, I was finally able to enjoy the series' quirky characters and witty dialogue without the frustrating RTS elements.

At just $4.99, YU-NAMA is one of the best puzzlers you can buy for the Vita. Don't be surprised when you find yourself siding with the bad guys on this one.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.