i’m always on the lookout for a good puzzler, and might & magic: clash of heroes for DS had gotten good reviews. the game is apparently tied into the might & magic series, which i know nothing about, but the setting had all the typical generic fantasy trappings including demons, elves, and necromancers. although the setting and story leave something to be desired, the game’s core puzzle mechanics are pretty solid.
in the un-timed, turn-based battles you move pieces between columns in order to form groups of 3, with bonus moves given for achieving groups of five (three vertical and three horizontal) and chains. vertical groups provide attacks, while horizontal groups provide defense in the form of walls. in addition, pieces can be combined with more powerful pieces in order to launch stronger attacks. the game is so carefully balanced that there is virtually no advantage or disadvantage between favoring an offensive vs. defensive strategy; similarly, choosing to use many smaller attacks instead of building up a stronger attack is almost as equally balanced. one of the main things that keeps the game interesting is that each of the game’s five sections features different protagonists, and each protagonist has a different set of pieces. the first protagonist (an elf) has walls that can regenerate and deer that can jump over walls, while the second protagonist (a knight) has walls with higher defense and a priest who can restore health every turn. each character also has a unique special move that can be unleashed after a certain amount of damage has been given/taken.
although it was interesting to get acquainted with each of the sets of pieces, by the third chapter the similarities were so outweighing the differences that i had to stop. although balance is usually a good thing in a puzzle game, in this case the game is so well balanced that no matter what strategy you adopt you can still win. this lack of risk and reward makes the game curiously dull and predictable once the core mechanics have been mastered, and rounds tend to drag on because attacks are set to a number of turns until they activate and stronger attacks take longer to activate. the game tries to tack on RPG-like elements (somewhat like puzzle quest, a game that it is often compared to) by letting you choose which pieces to bring into battle, having them level up after battles, including items that provide minor bonuses, and including a map with fixed points that you navigate through to advance the story, talk to NPCs, and take on optional battles for coins to buy extra pieces, but none of these trappings distract from the slowness of the main puzzle mechanics for long. boss battles and the occasional mission battle with different objectives do provide a nice change of pace, and i found the optional puzzle modes included in the story mode to be much more worthwhile than in the usual puzzle game.
while i started off being completely addicted to the game, once i mastered the mechanics my interest dried up pretty quickly. not one of the greatest puzzle games, but a fairly solid diversion, at least for a while.