Saying that there's an overabundance of puzzle games on the DS would be an understatement, but as is the usual case with Nintendo platforms, many of them are ports or remakes, barely scratching the surface of what the handheld has to offer. Built from the ground up for the DS's touch screen, Puchi Puchi Virus is an incredibly zany and entertaining puzzler. However, while the mechanics of the puzzles aren't worth ignoring, the actual accolades should go to the writers and localization team, not the designers.
The Puchi Puchi Virus has turned all of the world's humans into monsters and it's up to the player to turn them back. Instead of simply giving players a level, the game is separated into patients, each of which has a goal to complete. The objectives are usually nothing more than achieving a certain point value, but does a lot to break the game away from more traditional puzzle titles. Also on its side is the lack of falling block or switching gems, meaning that, out of the box, Puchi Puchi Virus should be worth paying attention to for anyone tired of Tetris and Bejeweled clones.
Instead, the good doctor needs to create triangles using like-colored viruses, which populate a hexagonal grid. Tapping a virus block activates it, and when three of the same color are activated at once the shape is formed. If they stay activated for too long, however, they're become solid, and cannot be selected again unless broken up. To do this, the game's second mechanic comes into play: anything caught inside of a triangle becomes activated. This means the player needs to be careful when creating large triangles, or be prepared to use the virus blocks caught in the shape to create chains, which can score big points. It's a different mechanic than most are likely used to, but while it's definitely unique it isn't without its faults.
Even at higher levels, the best strategy is usually just creating the largest triangles possible. When there are enough blocks on the board, a large shape will catch so much that there's a good chance it will find itself around plenty of like-colored blocks. Some will usually be turned to stone, but creating a triangle over these spots frees them, and can be fixed by just creating another large triangle. Some of the game's later levels try and fix this by changing the objective from a point limit to a set number of chains, but even these levels can be simple by being a little more tactical about placing the triangles.
But the lack of truly challenging gameplay isn't as big of an issue due to the game's stellar writing. As said before, the localization team deserves some high-fives for turning what would otherwise be an interesting, but forgettable experience into something more. The patients are all fairly silly, and are given appropriately ludicrous descriptions after their level is complete. These memos are a combination of sarcastic, punny, and pop culture jokes, from references to celebrities to a shot at everyone's favorite Uwe Boll. This gives incentive where there otherwise wouldn't be any, and it's worth playing through the game to see what inane description the monsters are given. It's laugh-out-loud funny, which isn't something usually said about a puzzle game.
After a bit of play, training is unlocked, and offers players a chance to continue endlessly instead of working towards a specific goal. A multiplayer mode is also included, but doesn't really stand out as much as the hilarious singleplayer offerings. Puchi Puchi Virus is addictive enough that it should make a long car or plane ride go by quickly, and for $20 there's no reason not to pick it up.