Product Type: D3 Publisher Nintendo DS games
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Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords (DS)
Member Name: SWSt
Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords (DS)
Date: 18/08/09, updated on 30/08/12 (115 review reads)
Advantages: Incredibly addictive, blend of puzzle game and RPG elements work really well
Disadvantages: Computer "help" a little suspect,
Puzzle Quest (PQ from now on) mixes the basic gameplay of Bejewelled with traditional role playing game quests. You play a knight undertaking different quests for a variety of characters you meet. The more you complete, the more powerful you become. You can mix spells to use against enemies, buy magical items and so on. Where PQ it's different is in its combat system. Instead of a points-based fighting system, you have to defeat them at a game of Bejewelled.
It sounds crazy, but it works really well. When you fight an enemy, you get a grid, full of different coloured gems. You take it in turns to move one gem a single space to create a line of at least 3 identical gems. Occasionally, skulls appear on the screen. Match three of these and your enemy suffers damage. The game ends when either you or your enemy have no strength left.
It's so simple it is easy for anyone to pick up and start playing, and is instantly addictive. But other bits of the game add a more strategic element, giving it greater depth and long-term value. Each character has special spells at their disposal which can be cast once you have collected the correct number of jewels. So, the game becomes a balancing act. Do you try and collect the right coloured gems for your spells, which allows you to inflict more damage, or do you rely just on the skulls to gradually whittle down your enemy's strength? The deceptively simple gameplay suddenly becomes more complex and you need to think carefully about which jewels will give you the biggest advantage.
Outside the battle mode, the RPG element works very well too. You can use gold you have earned to build up your citadel, which then allows you to learn new spells, train mounts that will make you faster and stronger or build new weapons. You can accept quests from people you meet on your travels and the decisions you make can alter the course of the game and lead to it branching off in a new dimension. This element adds a surprising amount of depth. You soon find yourself deeply engrossed in your character's quest, determined to ensure that you successfully complete each mission you undertake.
Puzzle Quest turns out to be fiendishly addictive. From the moment I bought it until the moment I completed it (and I would estimate that at 100+ hours of gameplay) no other cartridge got a look-in on my DS. It has that elusive "just one more go" element. Win a battle and you head straight off on the next part of your mission; lose and you immediately look for a rematch until you win. You would have thought that simply swapping jewels would become tedious after a while, but the RPG element gives it that extra dimension and keeps you playing. Even when you've completed the whole thing, it's still the type of game you'll return to occasionally for a quick fix.
Although some of the gameplay elements, such as the spells can take a few games to master, there is a good learning curve and you slowly find yourself being more skilful. It really feels like a genuine test of skill rather than a game of chance. If you make a mistake and hand the advantage to your enemy, it's because you've made a daft move. Just occasionally, it can be a little frustrating as the jewels seem to line up perfectly for your opponent and it can be annoying if your opponent uses his spells to get lots of extra turns, effectively locking you out of the game and leaving you feeling powerless. Having said that, if you get it right, you can do the same to him - which is a great feeling!
One aspect I did find frustrating was the "help". If you can't see a move, the DS will suggest one for you but it doesn't always suggest the best move. At times it seems to be in league with your opponent, suggesting a move which sets up your computer opponent perfectly. I quickly learned always to check the suggested move and see if there were any better alternative, often only accepting the recommendation as a last resort.
Graphics-wise, things look pretty good, if fairly basic. The map for the RPG element is detailed enough and looks fine, if nothing spectacular. There are some cut-scenes showing dialogue between various characters which look pretty and add a bit of variety to the game. They are typically pseudo-Japanese in style and suit the game. The cut scenes are accompanied by some pretty cheesy dialogue, but this just adds to the sense of fun -and some of the dialogue is genuinely amusing too.
The actual Puzzle screen is initially confusing on first glance. Due to the DS screen size, it's fairly small - an 8x8 grid means jewels are quite densely packed. The jewels are also the shape and size - the only difference between them is colour. This can sometimes make spotting the best move a little tricky, but your eye soon becomes adjusted to the grid and you can spot possible moves fairly quickly.
Sound-wise, there are a number of atmospheric tunes which perfectly complement the pseudo-medieval setting for the game and sound effects, whilst fairly minimal, are appropriate.
A number of different game modes add longevity. You can undertake the Quest mode, choose to fight a specific opponent in a single match or play against other human players. These mean that you can sit down and have a quick game any time you like (although such is the addictive nature of PQ that there is no such thing as quick game!) The one big disappointment is that there is no "score attack" mode in Bejewelled, where you just try and destroy as many jewels as you can to accumulate high score.
A few minor quibbles aside, though, this is one of the most incredibly addictive games I've ever played (in a video game playing history going back to 1981). It can be a little tricky to get hold of and you can expect to pay £10-20 for a used copy. Believe me it's worth every penny.
© Copyright SWSt 2009
Summary: Possibly the greatest DS game ever released.
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