While it may seem bizarre that wizards could take out armies of plague rats through a game of matching colored pieces together, that is exactly the premise of Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords. Thankfully, the crazy spin on what is at heart Bejeweled offers up a great portable time-killer and one of the most unique game play experiences offered so far this year.
Using the touch screen, players can switch the positions of two pieces on the game play field while in battle. Aligning three similar icons will remove them from the field and grant players with elemental mana to cast spells, extra experience points, gold to buy enhancement items and direct attacks to the opponent’s hit points. Battles are turn-based so Puzzle Quest requires players to think multiple steps ahead to avoid running into a situation that benefits the opponent.
There is actually a lot for players to do, all built around the extremely simple premise. A storymode features an overhead map, shops, quests and different territories to navigate across, a single-player mode that allows players to jump straight into a CPU match and wireless multiplayer for two players that deceptively offer up hours upon hours of game play. Much of the charm in Puzzle Quest is in the individual characters a player raises and outfits as they level up through the course of the game, and with all of the item options, experience to gain and strongholds to build, the replayability of the title is near limitless.
This lasting appeal and unique play on what is one of the world’s most popular casual games really gives Puzzle Quest its bang for the buck. While, very fortunately, the title holds up strongly in the game play department, it isn’t as polished as a number of other DS titles, most notably in its weak sound and repetitive, generic music.
Although many of them get recycled quite often, the character portraits feature a decent amount of detail. Other than that, though, every other graphic in the game is as simple as the game play itself. The biggest disappointment graphically is the lack of any real detail in the worlds presented in the quest mode. It’s a bit nit-picky, but when 90 percent of the title is spent starring at small orbs, very little stands out in the visuals aside from the dialogue art.
Much akin to Bejeweled, usage of the mouse when played on the computer, Puzzle Quest finds a perfect substitute in the Nintendo DS’s touch screen. Switching puzzle pieces, navigating the maps and activating spells or purchasing goods couldn’t have been made any easier. Occasionally players may accidentally touch a section of the play field they don’t intend to, but after extended bouts of game play, this only happened to me a couple of times.
It’s hard to do an extensive review of a title that is so simple, but in text, it’s hard to do Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords any justice – it has to be experienced in order to be understood and enjoyed. With its quick battle mode, the title is a perfect way to whittle away 15 minutes on the road and with its adventure mode, players can spend hours micromanaging their character let alone battling. Puzzle Quest is definitely the ticket to draw RPG fans and casual gamers alike to the Nintendo DS and definitely shouldn’t be overlooked.
Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) by the ESRB for Suggestive Themes. This title is also available on: PSP .