Puzzle Quest 2 in Review – Match 3 RPG Bliss

I didn’t think the match 3 mash-up could get any better than the original Puzzle Quest.  It figures that it would take the sequel of the game that pioneered the concept to prove me wrong.  Puzzle Quest 2 raises the bar that its predecessor set with a new isometric perspective that actually lets you wander around town, side quests complete with mini-games, and a tournament mode that allows you to fight with the monsters!  I’m not sure what Puzzle Quest 3 will bring (or if there will even be one), but if it’s even half the upgrade this one has been we’ll be in for another treat.

For those who aren’t familiar with the concept, a match 3 mash-up is when the developers combine match 3 mechanics with some other kind of game play.  In this case the games are RPGs that use match 3 boards in place of traditional combat.  You select one of four classes and pick whether you want to be male or female, and then it’s off to explore and fight.  The game is filled with main quests and side quests, the latter of which aren’t necessary for completing the game.  If you like to do everything, however, you can hardly even leave the first town without fighting more than a dozen battles.

In addition to fighting battles, many actions will require you to play mini-games where you have to match a certain number of tiles in a given time.  This will allow you to do things like put out fires, loot chests or disarm traps.  It’s actually a rather clever way to introduce non-combat activities into the game.  As for combat, once you’ve bested a creature you’ll at least earn experience, and often get things like money, equipment and materials.  Experience allows you to build up your character, equipment helps you fight monsters and defend yourself in battle, and materials can be used to upgrade your equipment.

If you get bored with the main game – though I can’t personally imagine this – you can select Quick Battle, which allows you to fight one creature.  You even get to keep whatever you earn for the main game.  There’s also Endurance Mode, where you fight a series of creatures one at a time until you’ve beaten them all or they clobber you.  Since you don’t heal in between battles, there’s a good chance you won’t complete Endurance Mode early on in the game.  And, if all that isn’t enough, you can play Tournament Mode, where you pick four monsters and pit them against four computer controlled opponents.  It’s pretty cool actually getting the chance to play a goblin or gelatinous slime.

Unfortunately, the game’s user interface leaves a bit of luster on an otherwise perfectly shiny gem.  The game is basically menu / button driven aside from sliding pieces around on the match 3 screens.  The problem lies in the fact that a good portion of the UI elements are really tiny.  Even those that aren’t often require two or three presses in order for the game to recognize that you’ve actually done anything.  The interface might work great on the iPad, but it’s not real conducive to my small iPod Touch screen.  One other minor niggle is that there’s a lot of loading going on in this game – basically every screen takes a couple of seconds to load.  It just feels so “90’s console” to me.

The visuals in Puzzle Quest 2 are very nice.  While I haven’t run into anything really out of the ordinary yet, the creatures look like they were ripped from a première fantasy illustration book, and the backgrounds are intricately detailed.  Animation seems to be minimal other than the indicators of where you need to go, but everything still looks sharp.  I really like the closeups of creatures and your character when you go into battle and execute specials.  There are also some nifty particle effects when you cast spells during combat.

The sound effects are pretty standard RPG fare.  I do like the noises the different creatures make when you attack; and while it’s nice that the villagers talk to you, I do find it amusing that the comments the villagers actually voice have nothing to do with the written comments they have to share.  The music is very well orchestrated and sets an ominous mood for the game.  I especially like the creepy tunes that play during combat.  They provide a nice “edge of your seat” atmosphere while you’re trying desperately to defeat some of these foes.

I haven’t had the opportunity to play some of the “big name” RPGs that came out towards the end of this year.  That being said, I’m pretty sure Puzzle Quest 2 could hold its own among them.  The match 3 combat provides a unique style that offers a nice change of pace from the norm, and there’s enough to do to keep you busy for quite some time.  In a lesser game I’d probably be a lot more bothered by the loading delays and UI issues, but the net gratification Puzzle Quest 2 brings far outweighs those shortcomings.  If you’re an RPG fan, a match 3 nut or both, I definitely recommend you check out this game.

App Summary
Title: Puzzle Quest 2Developer: Namco Networks America Inc.
Reviewed Ver:1.0.0Min OS Req:3.1.3
Price:$9.99App Size:574 MB
  • Unique integration of match 3 and RPG
  • Lots to do
  • Great visuals
  • Excellent music
  • Universal app
  • Tiny UI on iPhone/iPod Touchcan be difficult
  • Slight loading times on most screens
  • Occasional lockups require replay of last battle

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