A couple of weeks ago, Xbox Live Arcade title Puzzle Quest popped up as the Deal of the Week. After putting off the purchase so that a trip abroad wouldn’t interrupt my puzzling, it was time to Quest.
Puzzle Quest is annoyingly one of the most addictive games ever made. It’s a puzzle game where battles against traditional mystical creatures are fought on a board covered in gems and skulls. In classic Bejeweled manner, the player has to line up various coloured gems to gain mana in respective fields to cast spells – red being fire, green being earth, etc – whilst matching the skulls on the board enables you to cause damage against your opponent, and vice versa. Victory is achieved by causing enough damage for your opponent to run out of hit points. Companions can join our hero at various points of the adventure, bringing thier own unique skills to the battlefield and enabling locations to be captured and used as a base camp instead of trekking all the way across the map. This not only generates revenue, but allows for various admin duties to be completed – be it learning a new spell, or creating new items from merging runes. This addictive concept is then given its main obsessive hook by incorporating RPG elements into the character progression; the more creatures you defeat, the stronger you become with more spells and options at your disposal.
It is this simple mechanic that has seen many late evenings hosted by the Xbox. ODST has sat patiently in the disk tray as I’ve ploughed across the puzzle lands beating off ogres, dragons and trolls. Unfortunately my other-half doesn’t share my appreciation for the fantasy world, with the three song soundtrack and little ‘bleeps’ and ‘blops’ pushing her well past the normal gaming threshold. This aside, it has proved the perfect filler title just to suck away the hours in what seems to be an endless, albeit slightly repetitive, quest mode.
It also includes a multiplayer mode which sees you pitted in puzzle battles against other human players, with quest stats incoroporated into your skills and attributes for battle. Unfortunately this didn’t work so well. Lobbies were filled with few players and the ones who I did end up matchmaking were level 50 veterans that snapped my character like twig within seconds. The title has been on the marketplace for some time, so understandably most casual gamers have moved on.
Overall, Puzzle Quest blends the quick fire action of the genre along with deeper layers of character progression and a levelling system. A great title to while away those cold autumnal nights when maybe a larger title is just too much to digest.
Just make sure you keep the volume down.