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Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords (Windows)

81
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3.7
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5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  The Cliffe (1586)
Written on  :  Jul 06, 2008
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3.67 Stars3.67 Stars3.67 Stars3.67 Stars3.67 Stars

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Summary

A creative application of the Bejeweled puzzle game with a few minor kinks to work out.

The Good

Let's face it: everyone's played Bejeweled. Hell, even your grandmother logged a few hours on it. So if you don't know what I'm talking about when I say "This game is Bejeweled with RPG elements", go to Yahoo games and play it. Then make yourself a salami sandwich. Then come back and finish reading this review.

Everybody ready? OK. Puzzle Quest is Bejeweled with RPG elements. There's a storyline filled with royal people, giant bats, creatures possessing a variety of mythical qualities, and an unidentifiable evil that is, no doubt, plaguing the land. You get to earn XP, loot dungeons and crypts, learn new spells, train mounts, go on side quests, and do all sorts of things that you would expect to do in RPG.

What makes this particular RPG so unique is the application of the Bejeweled model. Each task that you perform in Puzzle Quest has its own little mini-game variant of Bejeweled attached to it. For instance, in order to learn new spells, you have to capture creatures. Capturing a creature involves completing a puzzle wherein you have to make sure every jewel is cleared off the board. Once that's done, you go into your dungeon and choose what spell (that the creature also possesses) you want to learn. This takes you into a mini-game where the goal is to collect a certain number of jewels of each color, plus a requisite amount of scrolls, which only appear when you match up four or five jewels in a row. The design of these diversions is very clever, as, although you're still playing Bejeweled, the experience of each task feels different enough to convey the impression of variety.

Regardless of diversions, you will spend a majority of your time with Puzzle Quest fighting monsters. The combat is well-thought out: you and your opponent take turns clearing gems off of the field, which, depending on their color, will earn you a certain number of mana points in the matching color. These mana points can be used to cast a variety of spells that you will earn throughout the game, producing a variety of effects ranging from damage to life gain to clearing rows or columns of the grid. Matching up skulls will deal damage to your opponent, while matching up gold coins and purple stars will earn you gold and experience, respectively. The combat is simple, but still requires an element of strategy and thinking ahead, as you'll have to give equal consideration both what your move is and what move you'll be leaving your opponent with afterwards.

The graphics do a good job of conveying a high-fantasy atmosphere, with characters and monster being represented by excellent hand-drawn portraits. The various effects and spells in the puzzle games are all the animation the game has to offer, and they do an adequate job of spicing up the experience. The game features some decent music and sound effects as well.

The Bad

My major gripe with taking Bejeweled and applying a competitive model to it is how frequently players (or enemies) will win a duel by sheer luck alone. As you have no idea what will drop down from the top of the screen when you clear out a few gems, planning ahead will only take you so far. And no matter how well you plan, your opponent may very well luck his way into a chain of six or seven matches and deal you a gratuitous amount of damage that you won't feel you deserved.

Even though the music in Puzzle Quest is solid, the game could stand to have a few more tracks in it. Considering some duels will take upwards of 10-15 minutes to complete, you'll cycle through most of the game's music in the span of that time. Multiply that by the (probably) hundreds of duels you will have to fight, and suddenly you're listening to the same tracks many, many times over.

Finally, the storyline of the game, although not terrible, isn't particularly memorable either. I found myself after 5 hours of game play not knowing why I was completing the current quest I was on or what the overall problem in the kingdom I served was. There's a large number of characters and a lot of side quests that could divert your attention for a significant amount of time, and when you come back to the main story quest you could find yourself at a loss to what exactly is going on.

The Bottom Line

Puzzle Quest will be a thrill to puzzle game fans who are looking for an endeavor that will keep them busy for a while. The creative use of the Bejeweled mechanics and the RPG elements found in the game really help to make it better than the sum of its parts. RPG gamers might be a little more hesitant to delve into this one, since the story and characters aren't particularly interesting. Still, in spite of a few hiccups, Puzzle Quest is a unique experience for any gamer looking for something a little bit different.