Planetary Puzzle Pop
Yuso is a cute puzzle game that has you touring the solar system to rid the galaxy of the titular creatures. The Yuso, which resemble colorful emoji blobs, look unsuspecting but are a menace to society, at least according to the planetary deities who set you on this mission. It’s a puzzle game, so of course, the only way to stop the adorable blobs is to pop them to oblivion.
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The Yuso come in four colors, each with a different face to support color blind players. Using either button controls or the touch screen, you can pop a Yuso only if there is at least one of the same color adjacent to it. Once popped, the Yuso explodes and takes out any identical colored creatures around it. Differently colored blobs nearby aren’t destroyed but instead change colors to match the original exploding Yuso. It’s a simple concept akin to small puzzles you might find in Professor Layton or other brain teaser compilations.
The challenge lies in clearing the screen. Each level features multiple Yuso in a gridlike arrangement of rows and columns. Typically, there are only one or two ways to correctly solve the puzzle, and it all comes down to popping every Yuso in the correct order. If you don’t, you end up with leftover blobs that can’t be destroyed. Naturally, this requires some trial and error, but thankfully, you can undo one move at a time. There’s also an option to restart the entire level, but it’s this robust rewind system that prevents frustration. Being able to go back and evaluate my moves enabled me to notice patterns and strategize around them.
You might be able to button mash in the early levels and still win, but later areas add a couple of mechanics that force you to think more carefully. The first is a bomb which explodes after you have made a certain number of moves. Just like Yuso, the bombs are color-coded and will affect nearby blobs accordingly. The second element is a nightcap that puts surrounding Yuso to sleep, again after a set amount of moves. You can’t pop a sleeping Yuso directly, and when a nearby blob explodes, the sleepers will wake up but won’t change color.
These two clever mechanics place a stronger emphasis on your sequence of moves, with each configuration requiring a different approach. For instance, maybe you want to get rid of Yuso surrounding the nightcap so they won’t fall asleep. Alternatively, maybe you need them to sleep so that you can keep them on the field for further blob popping. Likewise, whether you want a bomb to eliminate or simply change the color of nearby Yuso depends on the situation. This depth made puzzles satisfying to solve.
However, the mechanics don’t evolve from there. After nightcaps are introduced in the first tenth of the game, you’ve learned everything. On the one hand, the game gets more challenging over time and effectively crafts tricky arrangements with its limited mechanics. But on the other hand, the levels blend together without anything new to spice things up. The only differentiation between planets are the background colors and the representatives of each planet, whom I admit have striking character designs. Overall, the soft color palettes, cute Yuso art, and pleasant music effectively promote the game’s relaxing nature.
It’s a shame the main campaign doesn’t last very long. The story takes place in the solar system, so doing the scientific math, there are eight planets, with ten levels each. That being said, some later puzzles may take much longer to solve than earlier ones. At least an open progression system allows you to pick and choose levels if one gets too difficult. Each planet requires you to clear a specified amount of levels to unlock, but once you’ve reached the threshold, you can attempt any of a planet’s ten levels in any order. There isn’t much replay value. However, it’s worth completing every planet to see what pops up, though don’t expect a lot of fanfare.
Yuso will appeal most to players who like puzzles and board games that revolve around spatial reasoning and strategic pattern recognition. It’s a relaxing experience that lets you undo mistakes and play at your own pace. The gameplay unfortunately doesn’t go deeper than its limited core mechanics, and the campaign is rather short and unexciting. But those who want to wind down to a slower, cerebral game may want to give this cute, little puzzler a pop.
Note: A review copy was used for this article.