Puzzlegeddon Review for Xbox 360

Puzzlegeddon Review for Xbox 360

Match Five

Apparently, the Puzzle Quest games have started a trend. Puzzlegeddon, a PC title that recently came to XBLA and the PlayStation Network, has taken up the idea of matching blocks to gain resources. Only this time, players use the resources in a real-time strategy fight instead of an RPG adventure.

Puzzlegeddon screenshot

For fans of block-matching games with a twist, Puzzlegeddon is a decent use of 800 leftover Christmas-season Microsoft Points or $9.99 in cash through PSN. However, thanks to the various flaws that bring down both the single-player and multiplayer modes, it’s far from a must-buy.

The puzzle side of Puzzlegeddon is simple enough. There’s a 6×6 game board full of tiles, and you can shift rows and columns to match the blocks. Whenever five blocks of the same color touch, you can push a button to make them disappear, and they’re replaced by random blocks. You get extra points if the disappearing blocks form various geometric patterns (such as a straight line), if you make two or more different colors disappear at once, or if you create chains.

The RTS elements are what make the game complicated. Each color represents one of four different resources. In the game’s main mode, these resources enable you to attack an opponent, briefly disrupt an opponent, defend against attacks, and boost your power. You can decide how many opponents you face, how skillful those opponents are, and the rules for victory (deathmatch or last man standing). When you die, you play The Dead Puzzler’s Challenge (basically, a series of tasks to carry out on the game board, such as matching two specific colors at the same time), and if you do well enough, you come back to life.

What’s fascinating is that your situation in the RTS fight dictates how you play the puzzle game. If your defense resources are low and your opponents are attacking, you need to match some defense blocks; if an opponent is near death, it’s time to stock up on attack power and wipe him out. You find yourself constantly facing tradeoffs: Should you carefully put together multiple matches at once, or match as quickly as possible? Should you attack with one missile, or build up your meter a bit more and send several at once?

Puzzlegeddon screenshot

If that’s not complicated enough, there are plenty of other options. You can fight from various islands, each of which has its own properties. One, for example, helps you create chains; another makes it harder for your opponents to tell when you’re attacking. You can also set numerous other parameters, such as how much damage attacks do and how long each match lasts. There’s a second mode called Poison Peril, in which you have a limited number of moves to achieve specific combinations (it’s virtually identical to The Dead Puzzler’s Challenge), and you suffocate in poison gas if you fail.

It should be clear by now that Puzzlegeddon has most of the ingredients of a great game. The matching system is familiar to fans of Bejeweled and Puzzle Quest, but it’s not stolen directly from another game, and the RTS gameplay provides an extra layer of complexity. The moment-to-moment action is frantic. Unfortunately, the developers didn’t quite finish what they started.

Puzzlegeddon screenshot

The biggest problem is the lack of a campaign for the game’s main mode. Single games are all that’s available. You can customize these games, of course, making them harder as you go along, but we found ourselves pining for the more obvious sense of progress that a campaign gives. When there’s no way to “beat” a game, a lot of players lose interest in a hurry. To be fair, you can progress through Poison Peril, and there’s a good deal of fun (and an achievement/trophy) to be had there, but Puzzlegeddon’s meat and potatoes are its RTS elements, and the mode that showcases these elements deserves its own campaign.

Another issue is that the AI is spotty to say the least, and there’s no excuse for it. Even the “easy” bots will destroy a beginner quickly, so plan on practicing for a while before the single-player game becomes fun and competitive. Players who improve and move on to harder bots will find them to be incredibly cheap, launching attacks before it’s even possible to build up a defense. You don’t see your opponents’ screen of blocks, so it’s not clear why it was so tough for the developers to make them fight fair. All the bots have to do is attack at a fair rate, defend when appropriate, and periodically use the disable and boost power-ups.

Puzzlegeddon screenshot

The inclusion of multiplayer really should go a long way toward making the AI problem irrelevant, but unfortunately, even a couple of weeks after the game released, we couldn’t find anyone to play with (we tried several times with the Xbox version). Unless you and a friend can arrange to go online at the same time, don’t plan on engaging in multiplayer action. There’s no local multiplayer, another issue for which there’s no excuse.

Control-wise, the game works about as well as it can. It’s not quite as easy to move blocks around with a joystick as it is with a mouse (or, hypothetically, a Wii-mote), but it works, and once you get the hang of it, you can move fast. Whenever you use a special ability, the game helpfully displays a guide to which buttons use which resources, so you shouldn’t waste items by accident.

In terms of presentation, the game is impressive. The worlds you fight on are colorful and depicted in a pleasant art style, as are the blocks you move. The sound effects work well, and the music doesn’t grate (though it doesn’t stand out, either). Whatever complaints you have about the game, you’ll never think it looks or feels amateurish.

When it comes right down to it, Puzzlegeddon is a decent idea, but its implementation feels incomplete. Those who love block-matching games and want a fresh challenge will want to pick it up, but most others should wait for the sequel.

This is a colorful, good-looking game, but it doesn’t push the envelope. 3.8 Control
A gamepad doesn’t work as well as a mouse or Wii-mote might, but the setup here is fine. 3.1 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The sound effects and music may be unremarkable, but at least they’re not annoying. 2.8 Play Value
The various single and multiplayer modes provide a few different ways to play, but the lack of a campaign for the game’s main mode hurts. 3.2 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Puzzle action: Puzzle to collect resources and blast your enemies out of this world. It takes both speed and skill to earn the top spot on the planet. Battle against evil bots or puzzle to survive on a poisonous planet in challenging and addictive single-player modes.
  • Mini-game: Make a strong comeback from defeat by quickly completing The Dead Puzzler’s Challenge, a fun mini-game in the realm of the dead.
  • Multiplayer: Challenge friends and foes online in various game modes for up to six players!
  • Custom game styles: Choose from many playable islands, each with their own unique theme and special skill. And customize your match rules with a crazy set of game rule modifiers to play the way you want.

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