Neopets: Puzzle Adventure Review for Nintendo Wii

Neopets: Puzzle Adventure Review for Nintendo Wii

Neopets is one of those all-consuming activities kids have rallied to in legions; it’s almost a lifestyle for some. The Neopets website is designed to allow folks to create and nurture Neopets, evolve and adorn them, and by playing various on-site mini-games, kids can earn Neopoints for use in customizing their experience. Suffice it to say, whenever something new comes down the pike that’s Neopets-related, fans are eager to check it out. With Neopets: Puzzle Adventure, it seems Capcom hopes to cash in on the growing popularity of the Wii, but is this extension of the franchise worth your gaming dollars?

Neopets: Puzzle Adventure screenshot

Like Cradle of Rome, Neopets: Puzzle Adventure takes a simple gameplay concept and tacks on an objective. In actuality, you’ll merely be playing through dozens of puzzle battles based on the Reversi (also known as Othello) gameplay formula. There is a story here, yet the plot makes little sense and is mere window dressing for the puzzle gameplay.

You begin your adventure by selecting a Neopet to play as. The variety includes Grarrl, Kacheek, Kourga, and others. You’ll also be given the option to choose their color and gender. Once you’ve named your Neopet, you can then choose to play either the Story Mode or Instant Action. As its name implies, Instant Action allows you to play a few, quick puzzle battles, or you can opt to tinker with mini-games, unlocked via the Story Mode.

The Story Mode offers the main adventure and starts you out in the land of Shenkuu. You’re presented with an overworld map, and a golden question mark always directs you to the area you need to go to next. For the most part, Neopets: Puzzle Adventure is a linear-gameplay experience, though you can stop to cook, shop, or catch Pet-pets along the way. There are also myriad side quests, but they’re mostly just more puzzle battles with bits of dialogue and story attached to them.

Neopets: Puzzle Adventure screenshot

Upon entering Skenkuu, the first order of business is defeating a Blobagus that’s gotten loose in a local teahouse. You run into a Scorchio who enlists you to scare off the Blobagus, and though you’re fresh in town, your character is all too eager to help. The game, from start to finish, pushes you from one needy Neopet to another, and with almost every new location you travel to, you’ll engage in puzzle battles.

Battles are fairly basic, but they offer a surprising level of challenge, considering the young audience the game is likely aimed at. The general idea of combat is to trap your enemy’s tokens between your own. Like Reversi, you’re presented with a grid-like play board (of six-by-six, eight-by-eight, or ten-by-ten squares), and each combatant takes turns adding tokens to the board. Pet-pets and equipment eventually play into the equation and will offer special abilities during battles. For instance, a Graffle (Pet-pet) will allow you to change any white space to a purple space – purple spaces offering extra points when placing your tokens upon them; a Juma, however, lets you remove any two tokens from the board without using up your turn. You can only use a Pet-pet once per battle, though as you level up your Neopet, you’ll be able to bring additional Pet-pets with you into combat. Swords and shields act in much the same way, allowing you to protect tokens for a certain number of turns or choose tokens to be changed to your color, etc.

Neopets: Puzzle Adventure screenshot

A number of other considerations also factor in during battles, such as shockwaves and extra-points squares. If you manage to trap your opponent by placing a token on a shockwave marker, you’ll create a schism that will randomly change one of your opponent’s tokens to your color. If that token manages to trap more of your opponent’s tokens, it will create a chain, thus the “shockwave.”

Battles are a nice slice of pick-up-and-play fun, and though the A.I. isn’t quite as ruthless as that of Puzzle Quest, Neopets: Puzzle Adventure might prove to be a bit much for the really young Wii crowd. That said, those who stick with it are sure to learn some excellent strategy basics, and the puzzle battles are undeniably addictive. However, moving from map location to map location is mostly an arbitrary process, and even diehard Neopets fans will likely find the story and dialogue simply an extraneous addition to what could otherwise be a puzzle game based on anything, really.

Additionally, the use of character stats, items, and food isn’t explained well, nor do these gameplay mechanics seem to play an integral role in your success throughout the adventure. Many of the game’s “quests” entail simply moving from one area of the map to the next – no combat or conversation – and overall, Neopets: Puzzle Adventure is an extremely shallow experience.

Neopets: Puzzle Adventure screenshot

Adding to the game’s impoverished offering are constant frame shuddering and lag issues, both during battles and when making your way about the map. If you want to go to the menu, there’s a load screen; if you want to check your stats, there’s a load screen; enter battle – load screen. Moving the cursor to place tokens, use equipment, or to play a Pet-pet during battles works well enough, but you’ll constantly be wrestling lag in order to make your move. Navigating the overworld, however, is far worse, and we spent a great deal of time making random jerking motions just to view other sections of the map.

On the production front, Neopets: Puzzle Adventure is also fairly underdeveloped, and though the 2D artwork is attractive, it nowhere near makes up for the overall slapped-together feel the game exudes. The overworlds are merely a collection of static backgrounds, as are the conversations between the game’s characters. Again, framerate issues only serve to chip away at the experience, and there’s nothing here, really, fans can’t already get for free from the Neopets website.

The audio fares a bit better, though the constant lag and shudder make it pretty much impossible to appreciate. There isn’t a whole lot of variety in terms of the game’s music, but sound effects and themes are satisfying and fit well alongside the candy coated artwork.

With some optimization and polish, Neopets: Puzzle Adventure could make a wonderful $5-10 WiiWare game. However, the game retails for $40, and considering its many flaws, it’s a title fans should snub whole heartedly. There are some mini-games offered within the story, and though they help to break up the repetition of the Reversi-style gameplay, they do little to make interesting use of the Wii Remote. Also present are unlockable codes players can use on the Neopets website to claim various small-time prizes, yet it’s an extra that really should have been built into the actual game using Nintendo’s WiFi Connection service. The two-player, multiplayer option is likely the game’s best feature, but there’s no online interactivity whatsoever.

There are some fundamentally good gameplay tidbits here, but ultimately, Neopets: Puzzle Adventure is an over-priced and unfinished product. Neopets fanatics who just have to check it out should rent it and send it back; everyone else can take a pass.

The artwork is very attractive, but it’s static and there’s little variety. The framerate is a major issue the whole way through. 3.6 Control
It’s pretty basic, but control works well with just the Wii Remote. Again, however, shudder and lag hamper the experience, and the mini-games make only basic use of the controller. 3.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Sound effects are very satisfying, and though there are only a handful of themes, the music is pleasant and fitting. Once again, though, lag unleashes its plague upon the game, and the audio suffers as well. 2.4

Play Value
If the game were cleaned up and offered as a WiiWare title for about $5-10, it would be a good value for fans of the Neopets “thing,” but at $40 it’s bound to leave most folks with buyer’s remorse.

2.5 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Choose and customize one of 12 Neopets to be your central character in the story.
  • Travel through three Lands of Neopia as you experience an epic story with more than 150 quests in the single-player game.
  • Head-to-Head multiplayer matches.

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