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Puzzle Quest: The Legend Returns

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
Genre: Puzzle
Publisher: D3Publisher
Developer: Infinity Plus 2
Release Date: Sept. 19, 2019


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Switch Review - 'Puzzle Quest: The Legend Returns'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Sept. 27, 2019 @ 12:40 a.m. PDT

Puzzle Quest: The Legend Returns is the next chapter in the series, offering a treasure chest full of brand-new content, including new quests, classes, spells, items, and more!

Puzzle Quest: Return of the Legend is an updated port of the DS classic, Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords. In particular, it's based on the enhanced version, which was released for multiple consoles a few years after the original. Puzzle Quest is a competitive match-three game where both sides take turns moving gems around a board. Matching colored gems earn you mana, purple stars earn experience points, gold coins and skulls damage the enemy. Longest chains grant additional turns or wildcard gems, which can be used for any color. It's similar to other similar games in the genre, and I don't mean that in a bad way. The simple pick-up-and-play fun of match-three games is well known, and the portability of the Nintendo Switch makes this a great game when you only have enough time for a round or two.

What makes Puzzle Quest fun are the spells and equipment. When you start the game, you select a character class, each with distinct abilities. Abilities are powered by the aforementioned mana and let you perform actions that change or alter the board. Warriors can boost their own mana and stats, or they can smash entire sections of the board. Wizards can throw fireballs to blow up portions of the board or use fire bolts to directly damage the enemy. More complex classes may alter the gameplay flow.

On top of that, there's a boatload of additional customization options. You can find or craft equipment, which alters your character's stats and abilities. You can capture enemies and imprison them in a tower, so you can learn enemy-exclusive spells to augment your own builds. You can train and ride mounts, from simple horses to giant fire-breathing spiders, which also alter your abilities. Creating the ultimate character involves a lot of experimentation to find out which combination of abilities synergizes the best.

While it's possible to do well in match-three games, your overall goal is going to be figuring out how to optimize your mana gains so you're using your special abilities when necessary. Enemies also throw their own skills at you, and powerful enemies have their own equipment, which further modifies their skills. If you want to keep up, you need to consider your builds carefully. In essence, it's a traditional RPG, but the battles consist of match-three gameplay. It's a simple but surprisingly addictive combination.

A large part of Puzzle Quest is figuring out the optimal builds to play the actual match-three game as rarely as possible. The more you can cheat the enemies, the stronger you'll get. This is engaging due to the wide variety of potential character builds. Unless you do some serious grinding, there is a gradual steady ramping up of power, which strongly encourages you to consider when and where you'll want to match those addictive little gems for maximum power. That keeps the game moving along at a good pace, though.

Puzzle Quest's biggest issue is the same as before: It's a game of luck. All of your abilities and powers exist to help sway luck in your favor whenever possible, but you can sometimes be overwhelmed by the AI. The AI doesn't cheat, per se, but it can sometimes do a remarkably good job of mimicking it when it picks a seemingly innocent set of gems that set off a massive cascade of damage to wipe out your health in one round. This might sound frustrating, and it is in the moment, but it doesn't break the game. The core gameplay is fun enough that you can excuse some moments of complete nonsense, and random luck can sometimes work in your favor to give \you massive combos from seemingly simple movements.

One area where Puzzle Quest shines over a lot of its imitators is in the simple fact that it predates the era of heavy mobile gaming, so it isn't designed with energy meters and microtransactions as a core concept. The game can be a bit grindy at times, but it's never in the excessive way you'll see from later versions of Puzzle Quest. It might be a relic from a time before mobile apps had dominated the genre, but in this case, it's entirely a plus. It is by no means perfect, but I'll take some awkward design over a popup asking me to pay $5.99 for 20 more energy points.

There's also a lot of content here. The main story is fairly lengthy, and there are a lot of side-quests and alternate paths through the story. Add into that the bucketload of playable characters, and there's enough content here to keep you busy for ages. This is genuinely what makes it potentially worth the money when you can download hundreds of similar games to your phone for free. It's a ton of well-designed and enjoyable content, which is fully accessible without any F2P. If that's worth the money to you, then it's a worthy purchase.

The one area where Puzzle Quest doesn't shine so bright is in its general presentation. While the gameplay has received some visual updates, it still looks like a game that was pretty basic when it was released a decade ago. The environments and the character art look pretty dull. It's a match-three game, so you can't expect too much, but even by those standards, the title's visuals are pretty bland. The music is generally solid and has some catchy tunes, but nothing stands out.

Puzzle Quest: The Legend Returns might be a relic of a bygone time, but that isn't the same as being a bad game. Most of the modern match-three games owe something to the original, and it shows. It might not have Marvel characters or shiny graphics, but it's an accessible, enjoyable and fun puzzle game that is excellent to play for a few minutes at a time. For $15, you'll get more fun than you would in spending that same amount on microtransactions in other games.


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