Retrospective: Delta Warp for the NeoGeo Pocket
By TideGear (Adam Milecki)
As an avid retro gamer, every now and then I come across a game by accident that really stands out. Often I check Google for more information on such games. It always makes me a little sad when I find very little said about these hidden gems. That's a big part of why I do this. These games deserve to be better known. For today's retrospective I'll be talking about Delta Warp for the NeoGeo Pocket, an obscure game, released only in Japan for an obscure system.
The puzzle game genre, albeit one of my favorite game genres, is unfortunately rife with games that rehash the same tired old gameplay. Delta Warp is an action puzzle game with gameplay like a breath of fresh air. It was practically doomed to obscurity being a Japanese-only title developed by the unknown IOSYS for an unfortunately failed system like the NeoGeo Pocket. Like many games, it might have been quite well received had it just gotten more attention.
The gameplay and rules are fairly complex, for an action puzzle game, yet the game is intuitive enough to ease the learning curve quite a bit. The action is based around controlling a delta (aka triangle) as you flip it along its three edges moving it through adjacent triangle-shaped spaces in each stage. While the game initially feels turn based, you'll soon notice the ticking timer and the quick speed at which you can move.
One side of your delta is white, the other is black. (Being an Ikaruga fan, I'm a sucker for polarity-based gameplay mechanics!) Certain spaces in each stage are black or white as well and landing your delta on these spaces with the correct side of the delta facing up causes them to be cleared. Once these spaces are cleared the stage is complete. The challenge of this is eased slightly by the ability to rotate your delta around its 90 degree angle as well. Confused yet? I don't blame you. The game is difficult to describe but once you get into it, it all feels so right.
In addition to the core gameplay elements above, each stage features various kinds of spaces. Among others, some spaces crack and eventually disappear, some alter your delta in strange ways, some even launch you upward or cause you to fall through to the various elevations of a stage. That's right, most stages have more than one level that you'll need to move between in real-time to solve that particular stage.
The graphics have an abstract sci-fi look similar to Taito's Arkanoid series and they look even better in action. This is one of the prettier games on the NeoGeo Pocket. This is nicely complemented by the music and sound effects which fit the odd but energetic vibe of the game quite well.
There are plenty of stages to work through and the game even features a robust stage editor. When using a link cable you can even trade stages with friends or play a two player "Battle" mode. Play this game once and I'm fairly certain it'll keep you wanting to come back for more, just like a great puzzle game should. There's nothing else quite like it.
Note!: This game was programmed to use the NeoGeo Pocket's hardware in strange ways, therefor it's hard to emulate. NeoPop plays it decently but traditional saving doesn't work (savestates might), there's some odd slowdown (it's hard to notice but watch the timer) and strange graphical glitching. RACE-PSP for the PlayStation Portable actually plays it best of any emulator I've seen (near perfectly), as I personally worked with the emulator's very talented developer to get it working. The best solution to playing it accurately? Buy it! It's still available at Play-Asia among other places.