|System: X360 (XBLA), PS3 (PSN), PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Pieces Interactive||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Tecmo||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Dec. 17, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1 (Multiple Online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Robert VerBruggen
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.
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 6x6 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?
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.
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.