This game was dedicated to the memory of Gunpei Yokoi - genius creator of Nintendo’s Game & Watch and Game Boy handheld consoles. A fitting tribute that means his name will live on.
The game was released for the WonderSwan an odd little machine available only in Japan and created by Bandai to compete with the Neo Geo Pocket and - of course - the Game Boy. It featured a strange layout of buttons including two d-pads at one end of the screen meaning that it could be used to play games in either landscape or portrait orientations - a feature used recently on the Nintendo DS. Just like the Game Boy, the WonderSwan received a colour upgrade during it’s lifetime but it was too little too late and it didn’t really challenge the Game Boy at all. It did, however, have a handful of great games of which Gunpey is one.
A puzzle game with a number of similarities to Tetris Attack. It uses a two-block cursor - but here it swaps two vertically adjacent pieces - and the player is trying to clear pieces that are moving up the screen, trying to avoid any of them reaching the top and the subsequent game over.
Clearing pieces is done by moving small sections of line up and down within their own column so as to form a complete line that spans across the whole play area from left to right. Longer lines mean bigger scores, and it’s even possible to extend the line with extra pieces for a short time after the line has been made and before it disappears from play. This means you can chain together lines for even bigger scores and skilful play is rewarded with huge scores. Special block types are steadily introduced throughout play to add strategy to proceedings, and there’s a range of game modes available: Endless, Stage, Story, Free and Puzzle.
There are three versions of Gunpey for the WonderSwan - the original Wild West themed game, Tare Panda No Gunpey which is based on a popular Japanese cartoon, and Gunpey EX a colour version of the game. A PlayStation version was later released which adhered to the Wild West theme of the original, but with more detailed graphics and multi-player. More recently Q Entertainment of Meteos fame created two different versions of the game for Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable.
Really though, all subsequent versions haven’t added much to the original concept, which remains a great puzzle game that will keep you coming back for more. A game every bit worthy of it’s name.