Publisher: D3Publisher of America
Developer: Vicious Cycle Software / Infinity Interactive
Release Date: March 20, 2007
When I was still in college, I used to spend any time between classes ensconced in the computer lab. I'd either be working on unfinished assignments, sleeping, or logged on and playing some casual online games, which were so simple that you could begin and end a game relatively easily, but also required some strategy if you were to truly understand them. The game that ate up the most of my time was Bejeweled, where you match up enough similar jewels to progress to the next round. Puzzle Quest for the PSP plays like Bejeweled — with a twist. It takes the already-perfect gameplay of Bejeweled, makes it more enticing and intense, and takes the game from being a single-player experience into a multiplayer one.
After you've created your character, you are presented with a world map, and you use the stylus to move your character around to available locations, either by visiting them or obtaining a quest that must be completed in that area. You see, the Undead have recently been lurking in the area, and they've even joined forces with the Orcs, so it is high time that everyone band together and put an end to the evil. Quests are the only way to progress the story and find the cause behind the Undead uprising.
In each major city, you have the option to Get Quests, which consists of main storyline quests and optional side-quests to earn rewards and experience; the ability to visit the tavern, which will provide you with "rumors" or "tips" for a small fee; or shop for gear that will benefit you in battle. Exclusive to Bartonia is the option to visit the Citadel, where you can use your hard-earned shekels to build several structures that may aid your quests. A few of these buildings include a dungeon, which you can use to capture monsters and tame them to ride as mounts; a forge, which allows you to craft gear out of runes; a mage tower, which allows you to learn spells from captured enemies; and a siege workshop, which allows you to lay siege to new cities.
In Puzzle Quest, you must defeat the enemy in order to clear the level or get a specific number of points. To do so, the player can attack the opponent by utilizing mana-based spells which inflict damage. Of course, your character must have the correct amount of mana in order to do this, which is where the original Bejeweled concept comes into play. By matching three or more icons of the same color, you gain an amount of the corresponding mana. There are four different colors and types of mana: green (air), blue (water), yellow (earth), and red (fire).
Accompanying these mana-yielding icons on the 8x8 playing grid are other beneficial items, like purple stars, which impart instant experience points that can be used to level your character and unlock new spells; stacks of gold, which add money to your income for that battle; and skulls, which deal direct damage to your opponent. Matching four icons grants you an extra turn, and matching five grants you an extra turn and a "wild card" icon.
Given the changes in the game structure, playing Puzzle Quest requires a completely new strategy. Not only do you have to figure out your own plan of attack, but you also have to try to anticipate your opponent's next move. With a good strategy in mind, you can set up pieces to your advantage, such as matching four icons and earning an extra turn; if used correctly, this extra turn can dictate the flow of the game by preventing your opponent from gaining the necessary mana.
Each spell has its own strengths and weaknesses, and no two are the same. They range from simple attacks that gradually decrease the opponent's life bar, to powerful hits that destroy objects on the grid. Even though a player can be well-versed on several spells, he can only equip five at a time, which keeps the game balanced and increases the strategy quotient by keeping the game balanced, thus requiring the player to strategize the best skills that will work against the enemy.
Puzzle Quest also implements mini-games that involve solving puzzles and clearing stages with a given number of pieces. Mini-games usually occur during game events, like when you're creating a new spell or trying to capture an enemy.
Sound is superb for a PSP title, especially when the battles are extremely long; the graphics are also quite aesthetically pleasing to the eye. The music is very soothing and befitting of the game environments, and the explosions, enemy character models, and even the map fit the game well.
Overall, Puzzle Quest is truly a masterpiece; it's a lot of fun, and the PSP platform needs more titles like this. If you loved Bejeweled, chances are that you will enjoy this title so much more, especially with the multiplayer capabilities.