Puzzle Quest 2 Review

PQuest2_NDS_Coversheet_WIP_03162010

If you’re unfamiliar with the series: 2007′s Puzzle Quest 1 took the whole match-three “puzzle game” motif of Bejeweled fame and transported it to RPG land–a world of magic, hit points, monsters and good-vs-evil. It really was something addictive and unique. “Bejeweled meets D&D” is a description you’ll see a lot, which fits pretty well.

So it’s been a few years, but Infinite Interactive is back with a proper sequel in Puzzle Quest 2. It’s the same old Puzzle Quest you know and love (to a fault in some ways), with some fresh gameplay hooks that add fun layers of strategy. How does it all stack up in the end? Full review after the break.

Puzzle Quest 2 (Web, Xbox 360, DS [reviewed], IPad, IPhone, PSP)
Developer: Infinite Interactive
Publisher: D3 Publisher
Released: June 22, 2010
MSRP: $14.99

The first thing you’ll notice about Puzzle Quest 2 is the revamped isometric view. Gone is the zoomed-out world map navigation. Instead, you’re zoomed way in, down at RPG-village depth. You use the stylus to move your little guy around villages/dungeons, talk to people, pick fights with monsters and generally explore environments. It’s a nice change over the original.

Battles will likely feel very similar at first, but there’s fun new stuff here. When you pick a fight with an orc or goblin or whatever, the screen will change to puzzle mode. You’ll engage in a turn-based puzzle battle with your opponent, where you each attempt to drain the other’s hit points to zero. To do that, you match three gems of the same color, which clears those gems from the grid. Clearing red, yellow, green, blue or purple gems adds “mana” of that color to your stock. You can trigger any of your five equipped spells by spending mana. Or, match some skulls gems to damage your opponent.

BerzerkerBattle

But here’s something new: you can equip weapons, armor and other support items for use in battle. To use, say, your Sword of Smelting +1, you’ll need to rack up action points by clearing gauntlet gems. Once you have enough action points, you can use your sword just like you would a spell. Weapons deal damage. Different armors add a variety of bonuses, from increased defense to mana boosts. Health potions are good for those “shit I’m dying” moments, poisons…poison your enemy, and so on. Your character only has two free hands to equip these items (the geeky “main hand” and “off hand” thing), so you’ll have to make decisions here. You’ll come across a surprising amount of usable items in the game, and it’s a blast customizing your character in this way.

There are 4 new playable classes in Puzzle Quest 2: Assassin, Barbarian, Sorcerer and Templar, each with their strengths and handicaps. I chose to extensively play an Assassin, because of this description: “…their spells combine to deliver some of the most lethal damage in the game.” This is just an anecdotal example, but here’s how this class’s advantages work. Rack up a ton of yellow and purple gems, and trigger the “stealth” spell. When you take damage while stealthed, you’ll lose purple gems instead of hit points. Now, trigger a strike spell. Let’s try “Burning Strike.” It converts all red gems on the grid to purple gems, and deals 1 point of damage for each conversion (x2 because you’re in stealth!). This can translate to a 20-30 point wallop of damage. Also, if you can snag some of those newly converted purple gems, you’ll stay in stealth mode that much longer. Strategizing with the classes this way is a blast.

When you’re not geeking out with poisons, daggers, armor, etc., you’ll spend a fair amount of time talking with towns folk, accepting and completing quests. This would be fun if it weren’t so tragically boring. The writing in these sections is just bland, and kind of cookie cutter. NPCs will say things like “Help! There’s an orc in my closet! I’d clear him out myself, but I have a broken leg!” It’s like there was a real opportunity here to introduce some characters, a story, compelling side-plots, maybe even some humor. Instead, you just talk to people and help them with whatever random chore they need done.

Further aggravating this weakness is the fact that the pace in Puzzle Quest 2 is really slow. Glacial even. The game as a whole is best enjoyed in short bursts. During long sessions, it can start to feel like you’re spinning wheels and not really getting anywhere. Also: Puzzle Quest 3 better have better graphics. The battles themselves look great on the DS, exactly what you’d expect. But the overworld environments looks pretty bad, almost unfinished.

DisarmTrap

The DS version I played supports local multiplayer matches, but does not have access to the new “Tournament Mode” supported in the Xbox Live version due out June 30. The Xbox Live version will undoubtedly look nicer, and is actually cheaper than the DS version (which is kind of odd).

In the end, Puzzle Quest 2 is a solid sequel to the addictive and unique original. It’s a lot of fun tinkering with your character’s inventory and items, strategizing with the new classes, and exploring the overworld. There’s hours and hours of fun here. The writing, pacing and graphics are all a bit unfortunate. But they don’t drag the title down too much. Puzzle Quest 2 is easy to recommend to fans of the series, or newcomers looking for a challenging new way to kill orcs.

Pros:
Addictive RPG-puzzle gameplay
New weapon/armor/item mechanic is fantastic
Sweet soundtrack
New classes add a lot of diversity

Cons:
Slow, punishing pace
Graphics leave a little to be desired
Script is not very entertaining
No multiplayer

Overall Score: 83/100

Need more DS reviews? Check out the new Super Scribblenauts review.

Like puzzle games? We’ve got a full walkthru for Ilomilo.

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