|System: Wii, X360, PS2, PSP, PC, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Viscous Cycle||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: D3 Publisher||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 29, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Joseph Catalanotto
Many would argue, and rightly so, that the puzzle genre has gotten rather stale over the past several years. Yes, the Nintendo DS has given the opportunity for some great puzzle games, but the genre hasn't seen much action recently. But around a year ago, the genre received a breath of fresh air with the release of Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords on both the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP. Its formula for success? Combine two classic genres -- puzzle and RPG -- to create an unprecedented game.
Given the game's overwhelming success, it's no surprise that it began to expand and come to other consoles. And now, at last, Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords is here. Sony's PS3 is now the only main console on the market not to feature this title, and though it has some significant flaws, I've got to admit that the PS3 is missing out on one heck of a game.
This game is a great mix of puzzle and role-playing elements, so let's start with the puzzle aspect of the game. For the most part, this game plays out entirely as a Bejeweled-esque puzzle game. The idea is to align rows or columns of three or more like-colored jewels by pointing the Wii Remote at a jewel and pointing to an adjacent space where you want to move it. When you do this, these lined-up jewels will disappear, and more jewels will fall down to take their place. Oftentimes, this "cascading" effect leads to more combinations being formed. If you manage to rack up rows or columns of four or even five like-colored jewels, you'll be rewarded with an extra turn.
It may sound a lot like a title like Meteos, but it's not, thanks to one significant caveat with the gameplay system. See, you're only allowed to move one jewel one adjacent spot (and diagonal moves are illegal) in order to create a row or column of three or more jewels. The jewel that you move must create a column or row of three or more; otherwise, this is deemed an illegal move, and you are punished. This implementation keeps the gameplay well-paced and keeps it from getting too simple.
But what's the point? What does aligning jewels do for you in the game? Well, that's where the role-playing elements of Puzzle Quest come into the mix. In addition to there being jewels on the playing field, there are also skulls and purple stars. When you make stars disappear, they give you experience, allowing your attacks to be more powerful. The skull icons on the board, when lined up, cause physical damage to your opponent.
The amount of damage done by your attacks is also determined by another RPG convention: equipment. You're not the only one dishing out damage; your opponent also gets a turn to line up jewels, and you can be injured as well. Finding shields throughout the game -- by winning battles or by purchasing them in shops -- can help cut down on how much you're hurt by enemy attacks. Similarly, purchasing a stronger weapon will help you to do more damage in battle.
However, lining up skulls is not going to be the primary way that you deal damage as you progress further and further into the game. Each specific class of character (more on that later) has their own unique spells. When you line up three red jewels, you will receive "red mana" -- each spell requires a certain amount of each type of mana to be cast. Once you've met this requirement, you can unleash an often-devastating attack on your opponent, which is far more effective then trying to deal damage by lining up skulls.