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Mark Marrow
06 Jun, 2007

Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords Review

DS Review | The best puzzle game since Tetris.
There’s something special with Puzzle Quest. There is little denying that the puzzle genre is a tough cookie to crunch, and many good games generally fail due to their lack of mainstream appeal. However, Puzzle Quest combines two very unique genres together, and provides enough variety and strategy that makes it extremely approachable for players who don’t consider themselves puzzle wizkids, yet is still easily appreciated by longtime puzzle addicts.

Puzzle Quest takes some elements from the fairly straightforward puzzle game Bejeweled, where players will be able to flip two adjacent pieces to create rows of three or more gems. Once you find a match, those gems will then disappear and more gems will fall into place. It’s a fairly tired old formula that has had several variations over the years, though Puzzle Quest manages to rejuvenate such an idea and makes it much more addictive by allowing the collection of different coloured mana points, gold, experience and the use of special abilities.

The way battles work in Puzzle Quest is that you’re faced head-to-head with an enemy, with both of you playing in the same battlefield of gems; each taking turns to collect gems. As like any other RPG, characters in Puzzle Quest have unique abilities that can be used during battles. However, to use these abilities you must first acquire mana points. There are four different coloured gems in play (blue, yellow, red, green) that represent a certain element school of mana. As you continue to match same coloured gems up, the ones you clear will then be transferred to your mana pool, eventually allowing you to execute certain abilities. There are additional gameplay spins such as skulls filling the game field that, when matched, will cause a certain amount of damage to your enemy. Additionally, if you manage to match four or more gems together, you’ll receive an extra turn or other bonuses such as wild cards or experience points.

  
A simple idea, yet executed perfectly.

A simple idea, yet executed perfectly.
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The challenge of the game is often set quite high, with most of your enemies not going down without a good fight. You will frequently have to be watchful of 4+colour match ups, and you will often have to deprive your enemy of receiving specific coloured gems to avoid being on the receiving end on some real nasty special attacks. In a matter of moments you could be fighting with full strength, though if you let your guard down for a moment you can easily find yourself with little health in a few turns. Puzzle Quest isn’t an overwhelming game that’ll wipe the floor with newcomers, though it is a thinking game; rewarding players that approach battles with more initiative and strategy.

Puzzle Quest provides gameplay through a number of modes, though most of the time will be spent in the game’s main quest. The main quest plays out much like your typical role-playing game where as soon as you begin the game you’re able to create a character from a roster of different classes – Druid, Knight, Warrior or Wizard – and from there you’ll need to travel across a large land, cleanse the land of evil and fulfill quests for other characters to receive items or gold. The game’s story is filled with plenty of fantasy clichés, producing a land full of dwarf's, orcs, wizards, elves and kingdoms under siege from a creeping force of evil. While the story is fairly predictable and a common RPG plot line, the dialogue is written extremely well, which helps build character and a bit of atmosphere as you continue to play the game.

While the core gameplay of Puzzle Quest is fairly basic, you’ll eventually realise the amount of freedom and depth that is offered if you’re willing to explore it. Players receive a hometown where you can purchase add-ons such as mage towers, dungeons, stables and various other buildings that grant you new abilities while traveling the land. You’ll eventually be able to capture enemies and acquire their abilities, train monsters as mounts and even forge new weapons. Additionally, each of these buildings provide a unique battle field to play in: capturing enemies will require you to match a certain amount of gems together, training mounts will match you against monsters that you’ll have to defeat in a limited amount of time, and learning new spells will require you to acquire hundreds of mana gems and a handful of magic scrolls. These additional battle field modes add a perfect balance to the gameplay, avoiding gamers from becoming too tired of the general head-to-head battles that the game mostly consists of. And naturally, there are plenty of side quests to accomplish that’ll provide extra experience points, items, and gold.

  
The familiar RPG features such as character selection and customisation are in full swing in Puzzle Quest.

The familiar RPG features such as character selection and customisation are in full swing in Puzzle Quest.
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Puzzle Quest is fairly flexible for a portable game too. You can play the main quest, which is ideal for longer trips, though there are also quick start matches that’ll allow you to use your character in head-to-head matches with similarly leveled enemies. Puzzle Quest also includes a fairly straightforward multiplayer mode for two players who each own a copy of the game. You are able to use any of the characters you’ve used in the single player quest, with the gold and experience you collect in multiplayer being available in the main game. The developers missed out on a golden opportunity though – Puzzle Quest would’ve been an ideal choice for the system’s online service.

Despite all the positives mentioned throughout this entire review, Puzzle Quest does unfortunately come packed with a few irritating shortcomings. The presentation of the game is fairly cramped, often making it difficult to view your enemy’s, and even your own, special abilities on the battle field without pressing a few menus that sometimes bogs down game time. The touch-screen recognition is sometimes unresponsive while in certain menus also - thankfully never during the core gameplay. While these problems can be a tad frustrating at times, none of them are really game-breaking issues.

Probably the most frustrating problem is the recording quality for the game. Admittedly, it sounds pretty awful. The soundtrack is generally quite varied and is implemented well for this sort of game, though listening to the music through the DS’s speakers is sometimes hurtful on the ears. The quality just sounds dreadful, however, we did find that if you’re willing to play the sound through some headphones then it relieves the pain somewhat.

While it doesn’t sport the cleanest of visuals or best overall presentation, Puzzle Quest is still remarkably enjoyable and, in this particular reviewer’s eyes, it’s probably the most addictive puzzle game since Tetris. The amount of freedom that is handed to the gamer is often overwhelming at times, yet this design choice helps maintain the freshness of the core gameplay. Puzzle Quest has taken all the best parts of an RPG, such as story, customization and freedom, and has mixed it with an extremely challenging and enjoyable puzzle game – it’s the perfect combination!
The Score
A worthwhile addition to anyone’s DS collection. And if you love puzzle games, then you won’t be disappointed with Puzzle Quest.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords Content

Steve Fawkner on his death threats
01 Sep, 2008 An exclusive interview about Puzzle Quest, Puzzle Quest Galactrix, and game AI.
Aussie developer received death threats
04 Jun, 2008 Six of them. And a bomb threat.
Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords Review
25 Apr, 2008 The portable puzzler comes to the PlayStation 2.
29 Comments
6 years ago
Yeah nice. I'm going to get with on Live marketplace when it comes out. Looks like a great little game.
6 years ago
A PC demo can be found here for anyone curious.

Easily the most enjoyable DS game just behind Tetris DS, in my opinion.
6 years ago
Sweet review, i've been really looking forward to this game, but dvdcrave have had it on backorder for MONTHS!Not weeks, months, apparently their are some major supply issues, shame aus can't even get it's hands on a game born here.
6 years ago
Puzzle Quest gets my vote - despite not being much of a gamer, my wife played this for an hour or two a day for nearly two months. It's good to see this getting a local release, as the original US batch sold out incredibly fast (probably largely due to Penny Arcade).

A really nice aspect of the game is that, while it can get pretty difficult, you don't lose anything from dying in battle, which makes it much less intimidating.
6 years ago
Jibbs wrote
Sweet review, i've been really looking forward to this game, but dvdcrave have had it on backorder for MONTHS!Not weeks, months, apparently their are some major supply issues, shame aus can't even get it's hands on a game born here.
I saw it the other day in store.
6 years ago
^oh really?

Oh ok then.Well, the us version, of which dvdcrave only have listed, is still out of stock and on backorder status.
6 years ago
any recommendations as to which is better between the psp or ds version? is it exactly the same game or does one have more options?
6 years ago
Jibbs wrote
^oh really?

Oh ok then.Well, the us version, of which dvdcrave only have listed, is still out of stock and on backorder status.
Great review Mark.

I think play-asia has a few copies too if DVDcrave have run out.

I have the PSP and DS version - and its a sweet game. I met the developers recently and ended up winning a copy of the game.

For my report on the night plus a summary of Steve Fawkner's presentation check out the following link, (near the bottom of the page). Jibbs you've already read it. icon_wink.gif

http://palgn.com.au/viewtopic.php?t=17429&highlight=
6 years ago
Mark wrote
Easily the most enjoyable DS game just behind Tetris DS, in my opinion.
That's a rather big call icon_smile.gif You mean most enjoyable puzzle DS games right icon_biggrin.gif You can't go past Ouendan!!! icon_lol.gif
6 years ago
nihilcreative wrote
any recommendations as to which is better between the psp or ds version? is it exactly the same game or does one have more options?
I think Kokatu did a feature on this. I think the PSP pipped the DS from memory as the best verison.
6 years ago
I have some interest in this game, I've yet to see it on the shelves but i havent been looking out for this game so its possible that i've skipped it each time.

that and i'm more wanting the second chapter to phoenix wright T_T
6 years ago
nihilcreative wrote
any recommendations as to which is better between the psp or ds version? is it exactly the same game or does one have more options?
Hey nihil,

See my link in the post above for more info on both versions. I've put twenty hours into both versions and there are very minor differences.

In a nutshell I would lean towards the PSP version.

The PSP has great graphics in comparison to the DS, more and better quality music, unlimited save slots for your characters, however has a nasty bug where the companions that follow you in the game special abilities don't actually work. However - so far it just makes the game a tiny bit more challenging.

Content wise they are exactly the same.

In conclusion I would get the version your girlfriend would most likely play - the DS is less geeky than the PSP to her so after watching me play for a while, she 'had to have a go'.
6 years ago
slasherD wrote
Puzzle Quest gets my vote - despite not being much of a gamer, my wife played this for an hour or two a day for nearly two months. It's good to see this getting a local release, as the original US batch sold out incredibly fast (probably largely due to Penny Arcade).

A really nice aspect of the game is that, while it can get pretty difficult, you don't lose anything from dying in battle, which makes it much less intimidating.
Hey slasherD - seems like you and I are in a similar situation, your wife and my girlfriend just can't stop playing it.

She puts in an hour or two every night now she's maxed out at level fifty, but the last boss has double her hit points and doesn't let up.

The beauty of this game is that you can play a game for 5-10 minutes but the leveling up aspect and storyline also caters for much longer play sessions.
6 years ago
nihilcreative wrote
any recommendations as to which is better between the psp or ds version? is it exactly the same game or does one have more options?
Me and my brother have a PSP and DS respectively, and the game on both, and from my experience its extremely similar on both. It really comes down to the cost of each version, and of course if you enjoy playing stuff on the PSP's larger screen. The interface is a tiny bit better on the PSP imo, but ultimately its one of the first games with a direct port for the PSP and the DS.
6 years ago
nihilcreative wrote
any recommendations as to which is better between the psp or ds version? is it exactly the same game or does one have more options?
PSP = Prettier and better sounding, but has many more bugs than the DS version including the companion bug mentioned earlier and a crash bug in the skills list. There are also occasional loads in battles and other areas.

DS = Much less pretty and sound is rather average, but it's not going to bother most people too much. The stylus for DS is far superior IMO, it's so much easier to play a quick game like the timed ones as you dont need to navigate to the gems you want to swap and it feels alot better. It's also more stable, not rock solid apparently, but I've never had it crash. The DS version also has the advantage of never needing to load (or more acurately the load times are insignificant) so you dont get interuptions to your game.

Personally I prefer the DS version because of the stylus, less bugs and no loads, but if you are a graphics nut or audiophile the PSP would probably be a better fit.
6 years ago
arbok wrote
I met the developers recently and ended up winning a copy of the game.
Ah, Dissecta. Was good for both of us. Still can't put the DS version I got off Fawkner down!

Definetly a good buy, I'd say that.
6 years ago
this game is sooo adictive when u close ur eyes u see the skulls there moving and ur trying to get 4 by 4s
,,,,,,
efos brother
6 years ago
DarkYoshii wrote
arbok wrote
I met the developers recently and ended up winning a copy of the game.
Ah, Dissecta. Was good for both of us. Still can't put the DS version I got off Fawkner down!

Definetly a good buy, I'd say that.
Cool! - nice to see someone who went to that in these forums!

Who knows I might have sat next to you! I was sitting at the back and I remember two other guys at the back winning a copy. I ended up getting the last PSP copy.
6 years ago
Jibbs wrote
Sweet review, i've been really looking forward to this game, but dvdcrave have had it on backorder for MONTHS!Not weeks, months, apparently their are some major supply issues, shame aus can't even get it's hands on a game born here.
I picked it up from them via their mail order site a few weeks ago. I don't think they get many in at a time so the best thing to do is to order now that way when it comes in your order will be filled first.
6 years ago
Me and my girlfriend bought our copies off ebay a couple of months ago. Its so embarrassing, I can't beat her, even when my character is a higher level.. lol
6 years ago
LeonJ wrote
Mark wrote
Easily the most enjoyable DS game just behind Tetris DS, in my opinion.
That's a rather big call icon_smile.gif You mean most enjoyable puzzle DS games right icon_biggrin.gif You can't go past Ouendan!!! icon_lol.gif
Even better than Meteos?
6 years ago
This game is fantastic... I've played pretty much nothing else since I got a copy. Everyone I've shown it to is hooked... Even though the game could be more polished it's definately a must have title for the DS
6 years ago
Hrysicos_Ho wrote
Me and my girlfriend bought our copies off ebay a couple of months ago. Its so embarrassing, I can't beat her, even when my character is a higher level.. lol
My wife has beat me at every DS puzzler ever made (except meteos) Not sure how she does it but she demolishes everyone she plays in Tetris...

My second copy just arrived... so I'm sure I've got some puzzle quest poundings coming.
6 years ago
Why?!?! Why do you tourture me with these positive reviews. I'm trying to go overseas and save. But will all these killer games, I just can't win.

....Maybe, I can fake my own death and get some money. Anyone willing to help it would be awesome

FAKE DEATH FTW!!!
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  25/05/2007 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $59.95 AU
Publisher:
  AFA Interactive
Genre:
  Puzzle
Year Made:
  2007
Players:
  2

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