Baku Baku Animal (1996)
By: Sega Genre: Puzzle Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega Saturn First Day Score: 17,250
Also Available For: Arcade, Game Gear, Master System, PC
After the unprecedented success of Tetris, a good few companies jumped on the ‘falling block’ puzzle game genre, and one of the biggest offenders was Sega. After buying the rights to Columns, it soon snapped up Puyo Puyo too. None of these addictive games, however, was to appear on their new Saturn console, so instead Sega came up with their own game, and quite an original one it was too! The King (of somewhere) is apparently looking to hire a zookeeper to look after the animal-mad Princesses pets! The game is basically a test at a job interview. If you win, you’ll get offered the job! Like the games before it, the action takes place on a single screen, in this case divided vertically down the middle. Player one controls the action on the left side of the screen, and player two or a computer-controlled opponent controls the right. As is usually the case with games like this, the concept behind the gameplay is a simple one. Sets of two blocks drift down the screen, one after another. Pictured on each single block is either a food or an animal. All you have to do is match the food with the animal that eats it!
There are five different animals in the game and each will eat only his favourite food when he lands on some (monkeys eat bananas, mice eat cheese, etc), but since food blocks appear more often than the animal ones it’s best to group foods together as much as possible. This is the best way to play the game as chain reactions can occur this way resulting in not only larger scores for you, but will also see a load of random blocks dumped on your opponent’s side of the screen! This will obviously not only screw up their attempts to do the same to you, but will also push them closer to the top of the screen which results in game over. The longer the game goes on for, the faster the blocks will fall down the screen. Occasionally, a pair of coins called ‘BB Coins’ will appear in place of a food/animal block. These will make any blocks they touch, and any other blocks of the same type on that player’s play field disappear.
There are two play modes to choose from in Baku Baku (plus a secret third one) – Arcade and Ranking modes. Arcade mode is the same as the arcade version as you might imagine. Here, you will challenge a series of opponents until you get to challenge the Princess. Beat her and win the game! Arcade mode is also where the two-player action is to be found. The ranking mode is for one player only, and is more or less the same as the arcade mode except your opponents carry on forever. Beat as many as you can and then receive a ranking for your playing skills such as number of attacks, number of chain reactions, and the least amount of time elapsed. Also featured is a hall of fame and a movie viewer, both accessible from the options screen where it is also possible to alter the difficulty level and increase or reduce the number of different animal types.
As with most puzzle games of this nature, its simplicity means the technical strain on the host system is kept to a minimum. It’s a nice, colourful, happy looking game though, and features a decent rendered intro detailing the story. The animals themselves are particularly amusing when they grow bigger to eat the foods! The music and sound effects are also suitably happy and upbeat (there’s even a ‘bangin’ dance remix hidden on the disc), and that’s pretty much the case throughout the game. You know what you’re getting with games like this and, whilst there are no real surprises and the one-player mode won’t last you long, this is still one of the best games of its type. Everything about it is top quality and it’s a lot of fun, especially when challenging a friend. A novel and amusing take on the much-copied falling block game and one well-worthy of your time.
RKS Score: 8/10