Puzzle Quest. Two of the most lucrative genres rolled into one. While it may seem incredibly bizarre- hardcore RPG elements mixed with the always casual puzzle market - Puzzle Quest is a delight. As ludicrous as it may seem, it’s a classic peanut butter and chocolate blend that’s sure to make anyone who can look past its budget presentation an addict.
Puzzle Quest is, in a nutshell, Bejeweled. Presented with a board made up of multicolored pieces, players compete against the computer to match different colors to reshuffle the playing area. However, there’s a twist here that lends the game its RPG style. Different stones on the board will earn players magic (mana) points to spend on special moves. Red represents fire, blue represents water, and so on and so forth. Lining up more than three pieces will grant the player an extra turn. Being a combat situation, players can damage their opponents by lining up skull-shaped pieces. It may seem a bit out there, but it works, and it’s simple enough that anyone could get into it.
Getting into it is just the beginning, though. After the first few fights, the game ramps up the difficulty to brutal levels. Some quests, given to you in towns or villages, pit you against opponents with vast amounts of health that often require multiple tries to take down. Thankfully, the game is rather merciful when it comes to death, simply giving you a slap on the wrist and telling you to try again. However, actually getting anywhere can be hard. As well as having seemingly steel hides, the enemies in the game possess an almost uncanny intelligence on the playing field. It often feels like the game is cheating on purpose to make things harder for the human player; it’s certainly frustrating when the computer gets five turns in a row on a lucky streak. Still, as cruel as it can be, Puzzle Quest is addictive, so expect to be playing it again about five minutes after cursing its very being.
Unfortunately, as well made as the game is, the same praise cannot be given for the presentation. The graphics are rather poor, with generic looking fantasy characters and rather boring dialog. Even with its fantasy trappings, Puzzle Quest is at heart, a puzzle game, so sifting through all of the derivative plot is definitely a second to the actual puzzling. The combination, while a good one, certainly could have run deeper. The fighting is well implemented into the Bejeweled formula, but whenever the game is away from the board, it feels like filler.
Aside from purchasing new equipment to increase your health or improve your damage skills, there’s nothing to do in the world. You simply waltz around until you arrive in a town that has a quest to give you. It’s very unceremonious: Look at list of quests, pick one, go somewhere, fight, rinse, lather, repeat. It feels rather unfinished and tacked on, and to make it even stranger, nobody in the game seems to acknowledge that they are fighting with pretty pieces of glass. A more self aware style could have made the adventure portions at least close to as enjoyable as the puzzle portions. Games like Pokemon and Custom Robo are proof that focusing everything on your subject matter makes everything click. Unfortunately, Puzzle Quest falls flat in this area. Anything that isn’t a puzzle just feels like a menu.
Despite its presentational faults, however, Puzzle Quest is a game worth picking up. It’s a perfect game for handhelds, combining the simplicity of puzzles with the addictive nature of RPGs. Even though it sounds like the result of an executive meeting gone horribly awry, Puzzle Quest is actually a great piece of synergy. If players can look past the dull adventure segments, they’ll find a puzzle game that will be a loyal companion for every bus ride.
Eight out of ten
- Great blend of RPGs and Bejewled
- Exploration system, not so hot
- Poor presentational values