Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords – The Alchemy of Addiction Review

Puzzle Quest is a brilliant idea. Take Bejeweled, toss in RPG elements and a semi-random story, port it to every system known to man and there you go, an inexpensive-to-produce game that basically works out to digital crack. I don’t know which warlords you’re being challenged by — I don’t think the story ever makes that clear. All I know is Puzzle Quest is a blight on my life, extinguishing all hope of productivity. I’ve walked around for more than a week straight, involuntarily seeing rows of colored gems everywhere I look. The worst part is that people become angry when you try to get them to slide into place, even though they are clearly arranged like a 4-of-a-kind just sitting there waiting to happen. Wrapped up in the conventions of the RPG archetype that you already love, Puzzle Quest essentially smuggles in a surprisingly deep game of jewel-matching that strikes your fun centers in force. By the time Puzzle Quest fully has you, you’ll be reveling in your own evil power as gems chime and disappear in billowing clouds of particle effects, the chink of coins piling up and spells lashing out in a furious crescendo of action.

The way I see it, every game developer is faced with the same basic problem: getting the player to perform the same gameplay tasks over and over without getting sick of it. What makes me a difficult reviewer is the fact that I’ve logged more hours in random battles than any human being on earth. I’m old, I don’t have time to repetitively select fight anymore. The fact that the heart of Puzzle Quest is a puzzle game that’s simpler even than the type of random battles you could get in an old SNES RPG and yet I not only endured it the entire time to advance the story and finish the game, but actively sought out more difficult battles with different opponents is an achievement. I’d say that warrants some kind of an award if the Puzzle Quest developers weren’t already swimming in a lake of thousand-dollar bills from all the platforms the game is appearing on.

So what is it that makes Puzzle Quest so addictive? I’d say it’s the same aspect of every game that I’ve gotten into like this: personal development. I tend to be pretty bad at the sort of thought involved in making more successful moves in the puzzle game part of PQ, but I kept getting better and better. Every triumph was worth something because I wasn’t just defeating a computer opponent, I was actually surpassing myself; mastering a skill. Just like my first time playing Tony Hawk for the Dreamcast or my years-long love affair with Counterstrike, the most compelling thing in any game I’ve played is always my own growth as a player. Long after the random increase of stats in an RPG has ceased to drive me, and the game has been reduced to an exercise in routine button-mashing merely for the sake of revealing the next part of the story, a game like Puzzle Quest will keep me interested.

Do you need to hear anything else about the game? Some technical details perhaps? Puzzle Quest is properly polished in almost every way. There are occasional lockups on the PSP version, but the game autosaves fairly frequently, reducing this to a slight annoyance. The DS doesn’t have as many lockup issues, but you’ll make a wrong move every now and then trying to touch those damn tiny squares. On either handheld the presentation is pretty slick and everything works the way it should (although the DS is once again short, as the PSP offers a much better resolution). The music is sufficiently epic, and the RPG elements complement the main puzzle game nicely. As you work to build new weapons, you can make a character that is vastly more powerful and suited to your specific style of play. I got my wizard to level 50 and he was satisfyingly godlike, although some enemies are still challenges. The bottom line is, if you own a PSP or DS and like good games, you should buy Puzzle Quest. I don’t think I can make it any simpler than that.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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