i’m really not a fan of bejeweled-type games since they rely on luck more than most puzzle games, but i’d played and somewhat enjoyed jungle jewels, a random flash version, last year and i’d heard a lot of good things about puzzle quest for DS, so i thought i’d pick it up. puzzle quest is a hybrid game, more specifically, a puzzle game with RPG elements. or perhaps a better description would be that it’s an extremely barebones RPG with bejeweled-like gameplay taking the place of traditional turn-based battles. this review at nintendolife.com offers up a good summary.
i agree with most of what that review says, although i’m far less enthusiastic about the game overall. the story and characters are utterly generic; the artwork and presentation are fairly minimal and cause the game to feel like a flash game (the DS version at least, although with the DS’s utterly natural stylus control it’s difficult to imagine the game being anything less than cumbersome on any other platform); and the gameplay is certainly limited even with all of the RPG trappings such as spells and equipment. one thing i wholeheartedly agree with and appreciated, though, is the variations on the main gameplay mode and how well they’re integrated. in the regular battle mode, where you’ll be spending the bulk of your time, you have to take turns against the computer, and your focus is on matching colors you need to cast spells while at the same time not setting up good moves for your opponent; there’s a puzzle mode where you have a fixed board that you have to clear completely; there are modes where, like jungle jewels you have to clear a certain number of each color; and there’s a timed battle mode. all the different modes definitely give the game longevity and provided just enough distractions that i didn’t mind playing through the entire main quest. but despite the good job infinite interactive did on all the gameplay’s RPG trappings and varied modes, at its core the still-too-luck-focused bejeweled gameplay just isn’t interesting or deep enough for me not to get fairly bored before the end.
one of the main complaints about the game is the AI, which many people feel cheats because apparently the computer can make decisions based on a row above the playing board, i.e. a row that the player can’t see. although this type of AI advantage gives an extremely bad impression to the player (see the original super mario kart for another example), i’m going to have to side with nintendolife on this one when they say: “It’s annoying and at times very unfair, but the fact that the player can always upgrade their weapons and armour to give them the edge balances things out a bit.” i.e. since the player has the advantage of a brain and better equipment, etc., the AI needs to cheat to make the game challenging.
all in all this was an enjoyable enough but oddly shallow title. i’m completely burnt out on the bejeweled-type gameplay, so it’s probably going to be a long while before i try any of the other games in the series. previews for the direct sequel have been floating around recently (here’s one from destructoid), and it really just looks like more of the same. well, it’s nice to have a franchise that i have zero interest in being a completist in — for once!
heroic effort! vanquished puzzle quest links!
– entry at wikipedia
– the songlist
– FAQ/walkthrough at gamefaqs.com
– random fansite with game calculators and searchable spell, item, and rune lists
– entry at metacritic: nintendo power gave the game a whopping low score of 40 out of 100. haven’t read the review yet, but i’m guessing that the main complaint was the computer AI.