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David Low
25 Apr, 2008

Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords Review

PS2 Review | The portable puzzler comes to the PlayStation 2.
Released around a year ago for DS and PSP, Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords proves the concept that the right idea produced well being all that is needed for success. Created by tiny Australian developer Infinite Interactive, the game combined the company's knowledge of the RPG genre with easy to understand and well thought out Bejewelled-like puzzling gameplay. Basically, they took the short-form gameplay of a puzzle game and made it the 'battle' part of the longer game structure of an RPG, and put it all together. It was unsurprisingly a huge success, particularly on the DS, and has now been ported to many other popular platforms, including the PS2. While it certainly suited the portable format, Puzzle Quest works just as well on a console, and the PS2 version is as good as any other.

Screens are from the PSP version

Screens are from the PSP version
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If you haven't played it yet, as mentioned above Puzzle Quest is a pretty standard RPG in structure, with quests, monster fighting, towns, equipment, spells and attacks. The only difference is that the archaic Dungeons and Dragons battle system of most RPGs has been replaced with compelling modern puzzle gameplay. You still fight monsters and bosses, it's just that you fight them in what amounts to a board game. At first it seems a little obtuse – as if a goblin would sit down and play a game of chess with the hero, but in reality it's no more abstract than the rules of most strategy games. Most other RPG conventions remain intact - such as character classes, equipping items for offence and defence, and using magic – and they have been seamlessly integrated into the 'connect four' (or three in this case) puzzle grid gameplay.

You begin the game by selecting a character class such as Knight, Warrior or Wizard as well as a limited selection of what they look like, and as with most RPGs each class have obvious advantages over each other in either strength or magic. Despite the different characters available, there is only one story to play through, but it can be a pretty long game to play through. Most of the non-battle part of the game takes place in an overworld, where you can travel to the various locations you have available to you, take quests from various kings and wizards to free the land from generic fantasy evil. The story won't win any awards, but the still-frame and large reams of text cut-scenes (a function of the game's DS origins) look nice due to some decent art, and keep it all going along. Soon you'll be able to establish your own base where you can do such things as keep monsters and eventually even raid other towns.

Build up your 'citadel' to have a solid base of operations

Build up your 'citadel' to have a solid base of operations
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But the meat of the game is the puzzle based battling. The basic idea is to move jewels in an 8x8 grid to form lines of three, which makes the jewels disappear and those above fall down to take their place, and making three skulls disappear constitutes and attack on the enemy. Between skull opportunities, you match other colors to gain mana (which powers your spells), money to build up your stock of cash, or experience points. Even before spells there is strategy to 'combat', as you look for opportunities to get four in a row or combos (where the fallen jewels from one move create another line-up of three). Add in strategy from spells and from equipping gear, and you've got a compelling system.

Just like in regular RPGs, enemies have various weaknesses that you can exploit by equipping the right tools. You can equip six spells, which have effects such as making your opponent skip a turn, as well as four pieces of equipment that could either cut through an enemy's defences or defend against their strengths. At the end of a battle you gain experience just like a regular RPG. Fights with regular enemies that are usually boring because you'll easily win are made worthwhile in Puzzle Quest because of secondary goals such as experience bonus gems and the aforementioned cash.

There are still some problems with the gameplay that haven't been fixed for this release. When combos occur it can be hard to see what's going on, as the animation is too quick, leaving you without your bearings. There is so much information on the screen it can be hard to keep track of everything, including basics such as whose turn it is.

There's plenty of generic fantasy stuff, but it's all decently written

There's plenty of generic fantasy stuff, but it's all decently written
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The game looks and sounds great on the PS2, especially though component cables. Seemingly a port of the PSP version, it has the superior art and music of that version, but obviously not the superior touch screen controls or the DS version. The screen layout is probably better than in either portable version, as a large 4:3 screen fits the game well, with plenty of room for the grid and all stats with no wasted screen space. Load times are decent, but it does that annoying 'check the memory card and tell you about it every time' thing many PS2 games do, which can get on your nerves. The game's difficulty has supposedly been evened out in the console versions, and it is certainly more difficult in the early stages than the DS version, but these changes are minor. The soundtrack could use a few more tracks considering the game's length, and you'll want to be a fan of medieval-style music, but it's still quite pleasant throughout. Overall, it's a good port.

PSP or DS are still probably the best places to play Puzzle Quest, but if the concept appeals to you and you only own a PS2, it's a good version of the game, so grab it at the budget price point today.

*Note: Screenshots used in this review are from the PSP version of the game.
The Score
A good port of one of last years best portable games. Still probably best in handheld form, but nice on a TV as well.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords Content

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01 Sep, 2008 An exclusive interview about Puzzle Quest, Puzzle Quest Galactrix, and game AI.
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04 Jun, 2008 Six of them. And a bomb threat.
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18 Jul, 2007 For those of you who were crazy enough to miss its initial release.
1 Comment
5 years ago
I recommend the PC version for optimum visuals, sound, netplay, and most importantly; patch support icon_wink.gif

All in all, a fantastic title and I can't recommend it enough. Especially o fans of the Warlords universe. Can't wait for the sequel already!
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  27/03/2008 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $49.95 AU
Publisher:
  AFA Interactive
Genre:
  Puzzle
Year Made:
  2007
Players:
  2

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