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Puzzle Chronicles

Puzzle Chronicles is stylistically bankrupt. There’s nothing noteworthy to differentiate the game from the developer’s prior work on the Puzzle Quest franchise. That game went on to define the ideas behind many puzzle-RPG hybrids, breathing temporary new life into the puzzle genre once more. Preceding its Xbox Live Arcade debut, Puzzle Chronicles had already been released on the PSP and PSN, but was given a month to sharpen the look of the game’s characters, puzzle pieces, and so on. However, Chronicles still isn’t a worthwhile aside to the Puzzle Quest franchise.

Ever since the release of Tetris developers still haven’t come up with something more compelling than what was found in the highly original block-matching game so many years ago. Grabbing that formula and flipping it horizontally, Puzzle ChroniclesC’s playing field is divided straight down the middle. By matching up similarly colored falling tiles, you’ll be able to make any of the expected matches connect and push the line toward your opponent, inching toward victory ever-so-slightly. The contest is decided once you’ve totally blocked off the enemy combatant’s area for creating further matches and cause them to build beyond past their grid.

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As the game moves in real time, Puzzle Chronicles presents all of the trappings of a video game franchise being over-saturated by a single developer whom is only in competing with themselves at this point. The real question is, just how low long can Infinite keep this up? With Puzzle Quest 2 having just released this week, it’s a shame that each game features such abysmal production values when it comes to in-game artwork. If all else fails in a puzzle game, I just want the pieces I’m matching to be aesthetically pleasing, or at least different than the last few iterations. The new pieces found in Chronicles are ugly as all get out, particularly the ones found in some of the various mini-games.

Your character, a dumbfounded ex-slave freed from imprisonment at the onset of the game is vaguely customizable throughout the journey. There are plenty of decent looking outfits and helmets you’ll have the opportunity to don later in the game, if you’re that concerned about the goofy heroes’ dress-code, but he still seems disinterested by the game. In battle, your character will stand above the block-matching field opposite his opponent, waiting for the cue to attack.

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These actions are carried out by filling an attack meter through multiple block matches for each of the game’s four colored pieces – yellow, blue, red, and green. As long as a rage block (appearing as a skull) is included before the match is formed into a complete square/rectangle composed of like-colored pieces, it will be reflected in the designated attack bar. Once this meter is full, you’re able to trigger attacks with the press of the proper highlighted button and watch the poorly animated main character waltz over to the opponent and knock the line back in their direction. All four colors can be upgraded to improve your skill set along with those of your companion pet, an uncivilized war beast picked up shortly after you’re rescued from your captures. By defeating foes in puzzle battles, completing missions, and playing through slight variants of popular puzzle games, you will earn experience points for your character and – in the case of some training mini-games – for your companion pet, as well.

Whatever quest elements are attempted in Puzzle Chronicles fare no better than the remainder of the game, featuring the most atrocious world map ever found in a video game. The poorly designed map results in slow navigation as your character pauses before begrudgingly sulking his way from point-to-point on the map. The game winds up becoming pretty lengthy, interspersed with a variety of poorly drawn “cut-scene” stills with white voice bubbles used for dialog throughout. There are plenty of story and side-missions, inventory shops, and all the other RPG-standbys you’ve come to expect from Infinite Interactive games.

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Having been playing this off since it was first released, I was initially dead-set on finding a multiplayer match. For several nights following the game’s release, I left it on for large chunks of time, searching for matches, and not a single thing ever showed up. I‘ve attempted this more recently and had the same results. The game‘s community was dead on arrival. I couldn’t even tell you if the online multiplayer works at this point, but if you’re able to find a match, you’ll apparently be able to play as your custom character in puzzle battles against your Xbox Live opponents. While I was able to play the occasional local game, there doesn’t seem to be a single person out there looking to show off their leveled up character in action.

Unless you’re simply looking for yet another puzzle-RPG hybrid or have played all of the others and are itching for more puzzle gameplay interrupted by lengthy quests, there’s no sensible reason to download Puzzle Chronicles. No matter how good your experiences with the Puzzle Quest franchise have been, this off-shoot instead matches the quality of Infinite Interactive’s other knock-offs – such as last year’s Puzzle Kingdom and NeoPets Puzzle Quest – but doesn‘t take the formula in any new or interesting directions.

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Even if the game were technically sound, Puzzle Quest 2 has since been released, so going with the lesser option of Puzzle Chronicles would be a poor investment on just about every level.

4 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2007. Get in touch on Twitter @Calvin_Kemph.

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