Puzzle Quest Review

May 30, 2007

The latest addition to my Nintendo DS gaming library is Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords. Although the name is a little hokey, the game is incredibly addictive.

Built around the Bejeweled game play premise, Puzzle Quest is a puzzle / role-playing game combination (one of the first of its kind, to my knowledge). You build a character using one of four character classes (Wizard, Knight, Druid, or Warrior), and travel around the game's world taking on quests. The game purely makes use of the stylus, and it does a remarkable job in the process (though I might argue that the stylus controls aren't quite as finely tuned as I would have liked).

Combat with enemies takes place on a Bejeweled-style game board, where you must match 3, 4, or 5 items in a row by swapping two items (just like Bejeweled). There are seven game pieces: red, green, blue, yellow, purple stars, stacks of coins, and skulls. The four colored game pieces correspond to the four types of mana that are available to your character (red, yellow, green, and blue). As you match these game pieces, your corresponding mana reserves increase. Mana is used to cast spells in the game, which you learn over time (you can also learn the spells of captured enemies). Some spells can be used to alter the game board while others can be used to do direct damage to your opponent. Other spells affect other aspects of the game, such as taking an extra turn or healing the damage you have taken.

Matching purple stars provides your character with extra experience during a battle, which helps you level up faster. The stacks of coins provide money when matched, giving you the necessary resources to purchase additional items for your character, or to spend on leveling up your various attributes. Skulls provide the means for doing damage to your opponent.

Interestingly enough, the AI in the game is very challenging. I frequently lose to the difficult opponents, especially after they get lucky and deal 40 or 50 points damage in a single turn (thanks to the cascades that can build up). Since players cannot die, I happily retry the match, hoping to do better the second (or third or fourth) time around.

There's more to the game than just battling enemies. You can build up a citadel with various buildings, each of which gives you a new capability. For instance, a dungeon allows you to capture enemies that you have beaten three or more times. A wizard's tower allows you to learn the spells of captured enemies. And other buildings provide further benefits. Cities can be sieged, allowing you easy access to your citadel, as well as a monthly income.

Thankfully, the writing in the game is fairly humorous. A number of silly side quests provide a good chuckle or two, and some have interesting twists. Overall, the main story line is fairly entertaining (if a bit cliché).

A few mildly annoying bugs lurk in this game, but they don't mar the overall presentation. One particular problem stands out: the game doesn't remember the music volume between game sessions, but it does remember whether or not you've turned the music off. I got pretty tired of the uninspired music after awhile anyway, so turning it off was no big deal.

I have yet to finish this game, but I have already made up my mind about it. If you don't own this game, and you have a Nintendo DS, you should be sure to pick it up. My final rating: A+

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