Baku Baku

Baku Baku
Game Name: Baku Baku
Media: 1 CD-ROM
Publisher(s): SEGA
Developer(s): SEGA
Genre(s): Puzzle
Release Date: 1998
Serial Number: MK81501-50
Region: PAL

Baku Baku ScreenshotBaku Baku is a game much in the tradition of the likes of Puyo Puyo and Puzzle Fighter; indeed this game shares similar mechanics to both those games that are at the pinnacle of the genre. Baku Baku isn’t far off the pace and as a console game appears to be exclusive to the Saturn.

Baku Baku is a classic pit-based game. Blocks fall into your pit and you must follow the game’s rules in order to clear your pit and to try and stack shapes up in your opponent’s pit. You do this by removing lots of blocks from your pit in one move instead of removing them in small groups. This game breaks with the tradition of colour matching and replaces it with a mechanism were the player must match animals to food instead of forming colour groups – e.g. match monkey with banana, panda with bamboo, dog with bone etc. There are by default 4 animal and food types.

Blocks fall into your pit in groups of 2 and you can manipulate the pair as they fall in order to position them favourably; the basic strategy being to form large groups of food and then plonk down the correct animal which will eat all the food in the group in one move – resulting in an attack on the opponent.

Like Puyo Puyo you can judiciously place food and animals so that you can build up chain reactions and this is a very satisfying aspect of the game. Every so often a pair of wild card symbols appear that will remove all blocks from the pit bearing the same food and/or animal symbol that they touch – though without any detriment to your opponent.

Baku Baku Screen ShotThe game has aged rather well I feel and it still looks very good. The background tune is jolly – but there does only seem to be one tune. The food and animals are represented by simple icons that are nice and clear, but when an animal starts to eat the food it is shown as a fully animated 3D head munching away at the food accompanied by satisfying sounds. The 3D models are simple but clear, glitch free and full of character.

There are 3 modes. In arcade mode, the 1 player game is basically a set of matches against a series of computer controlled components and its placed against some nonsensical back story about finding the best zookeeper in the land – the story can be dismissed but it isn’t without charm and odd little videos are unlocked by playing this mode. The 2 player arcade mode is a straight up battle between two human players and you have the option for setting different speeds for each player to introduce some sort of handicap system.

Then there is the single player only ranking mode – where you play a set of rounds until you lose whereby you get a ranking for your performance. There is also a third hidden mode which is unlocked by entering a key sequence just before the main title screen (see gamefaqs). This is some sort of league mode but it has not been translated from the original Japanese which is a shame but it’s still playable.

The PAL release was optimised which makes be believe that the developers thought they had a global hit on their hands – and perhaps the hidden non-translated mode was a casualty of a deadline. I can understand why they thought this – this is still one of the best puzzle games around and it’s a shame that not many people got a chance to play it.

There’s a comprehensive set of options allowing you configure the control scheme and game difficulty, and you can also introduce a fifth animal and food – mouse and cheese. High scores are kept and there’s also some stat tracking such as longest combo etc.

If you’re into puzzle games I’d make it my business to get a copy of this.

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