Publisher: Destination Software
Developer: Zoo Games
Release Date: August 5, 2008
To summarize this entire review in one sentence, there's nothing in Puzzler Collection for the Wii that you can't already do in a pen and paper puzzle book, and the book will likely provide you with more enjoyment. Games like this have to be able to offer more than what you would find included in the daily paper, and Puzzler Collection can't even manage that. When I first booted up the game, my wife asked the question, "Why would anyone buy this instead of a puzzle book?" and now, after spending a significant amount of time with the game, I still don't have an answer, which leads me to believe that there is no reason to purchase this title.
The first thing a game like this needs is a wide variety of puzzles to choose from, but that's simply not the case here. You are limited to Wordsearch, Crossword, Sudoku and Fitword puzzles, and that's all. Of those, the only particular game you may be unfamiliar with is Fitword, but you can think of it as a crossword where the answers are already laid out and you have to figure out where they go. It's actually incredibly easy once you get the first couple of words plopped down in the right place, so while it may be new to most, it is by no means the next big fad in puzzles, just a poor imitation of its more popular cousin.
If the game doesn't have many different types of puzzles, it should at least have a variety of gameplay modes, right? Well that would be the idea, but Puzzler Collection falls short on this count as well. The main game mode is the Puzzler Tournament, where you are given 20 different challenges, composed of all four puzzle types. Each challenge has a time limit, and you are given the opportunity to utilize hints and passes if you get stuck. At the end of the challenge, you see your final score and are given a rank … and that's it. Making matters worse is the fact that you have to work your way up through the difficulty ranks, so if you want to tackle the more challenging puzzles, first you have to slog through the easy and intermediate events. It's really quite an insult to your intelligence, as even the "hard" puzzles aren't that tough, and everything below that difficulty level is ludicrously easy. Suffering through the tournaments of the first two difficulty levels is so yawn-inducing, that it will likely take you days to complete them just because you can't stand to have the game on for more than 20 minutes without feeling like you need a nap.
Beyond the tournament, there are actually a couple of other modes in the title that show a bit of promise, but they can't pull this game up to a respectable level. Quick Blast lets you choose your own time limit, difficulty and other options, and then the game provides you with a selection of puzzles to try and complete within the allotted window. This mode also allows you to track your progress over a length of time, showing if your performance is improving or degrading. There's also Fast & Fun, which hits you with a series of partially completed puzzles that you must then finish as fast as possible. You're given 20 minutes to make it through as many as possible, but if you make even one mistake, it's game over, and you have to start again if you want to beat your best performance. These events, coupled with the standard quick play option and very rudimentary multiplayer, mean that there's at least a fair variety of modes, but due to broken gameplay mechanics, none of them are any fun.
That brings us to the biggest issue with Puzzler Collection: its utterly terrible interface and incredibly stiff and difficult controls. Games like Sudoku and Crossword force you to point the Wiimote's IR sensor at the screen and manually type out every number or letter you want to utilize in your answer, Wordsearch makes you drag the controller across all the letters you want to highlight, and Fitword requires you first click on the word you want on the list, and then on the appropriate box in the puzzle field. While all of these mechanics are annoying enough as it is, they are only compounded by the fact that the on-screen boxes are tiny, and trying to accurately select and type your answers is exceptionally frustrating. It's particularly infuriating in the Fast & Fun mode, where one tiny slip-up ends your game, even if you knew the answer.
Making the poor gameplay even more unbearable is the fact that it didn't have to be this way, and the cause of all the trauma has nothing to do with console incapability, but everything to do with terrible aesthetic choices. The screen is full of superfluous framing, and a poor layout translates into lots of wasted screen space. If the developers had simply gone with a more simplified, straightforward presentation, then the game would have likely been just boring, but as it stands now, the game is boring and virtually unplayable on a small television. If for some reason you end up buying this game, mark my words: You're going to end up making a lot of mistakes and errors that are absolutely not your fault, but are rather the result of the game having one of the worst layouts I've ever seen.
The funny thing is it's not as though the gameplay panels are constricted in order to show off an amazing background or incredible artwork; the title's visual style is as bland as it comes. Random letters and numbers float in the background, as your ears are quietly assaulted by music that doesn't belong in a game but to an intro to a PBS special made in the '80s. It really says something that the most impressive graphics work is shown off during the developer's and publisher's logos as the game boots up, rather than in the title itself; there's probably nothing here graphics-wise that couldn't have been done on the NES.
There's not a single reason for you to buy Puzzler Collection for the Wii. The tournament mode is pointless, offering no incentive to replay once you've beaten it, and the multiplayer is completely inane, forcing you to pass one controller back and forth among all the players. Quick Blast and Fast & Fun have potential, but because they are victims of the game's garbage core gameplay mechanics, they aren't any fun either. Instead of buying this game, take the money you're saving and go out and buy the biggest, thickest puzzle book you can find and let it bring you the hours of enjoyment that Puzzler Collection never will. Unless you happen to be some sort of perverse fellow who enjoys collecting Wii shovelware, this game has absolutely nothing to offer.