Puzzle Quest 2
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2010-07-10 Xbox 360 Puzzle E10 (Everyone 10+) D3 Publisher

Puzzle Quest was an extremely addictive game. Puzzle Quest Galactrix made all even more addictive by adding a more complex puzzle field with challenging gravity mechanics and several variations of the match-three gameplay in the form of mini-games. However, the sci-fi setting wasn't as appealing to me as the medieval fantasy environment of the original game.

Puzzle Quest 2 goes back to the sword, shield and magic spells environment and the square puzzle field that I loved, mixes it up with variations of mini-games from Galactrix and adds a much more engaging environment to move around in. Needless to say, it's hard to put the controller down all over again.

Puzzle Quest 2 lets you play as a male or female in four classes: Templar, Barbarian, Sorcerer and Assassin. Templars don't deal much damage, but are experts in defense, as they have the highest HP of all classes and can wear plate armor. Barbarians have balanced offense and defense, higher strength and stamina, and the ability to use most two-hand weapons. Sorcerers are quite versatile, offering plenty of spell options that range from attacks to puzzle field alterations. They are the only ones who can use mana tonics. Assassins are sneaky bastards... They seem fairly weak and harmless, but then dish out a ton of damage with their sneak attacks and poisons.

Your adventure begins in the town of Verloren, where people have been disappearing in the middle of the night. You arrive just in time, as the town is being invaded by goblins. No longer moving in a world map from location to location, we now enter towns and dungeons and travel through their different areas, which are presented in an isometric view. We can talk to villagers, receive quests, purchase armor or sell goods by going a little beyond character portraits and text. It's interesting to see the different environments and how they fit in the story, and each area has its own map, which you can access by pressing RB. You can check your position on the area map and check which areas you have been through (they will be colored) or see where quests are located. There is also a guide trail that tells you where to go, so you can't really get lost. Follow the golden question mark to the next part of the main quest, or explore everything and get the most out of your adventure.

As I said before, PQ2 brings back mini-games that we saw before in Galactrix. Although we won't be mining asteroids or hacking waygates, we can do a bunch of different things with these activities. In Puzzle Quest 2 we have Learn Spell, Bash, Unlock, Search, Disarm, Pick Lock and Loot,all based on the match-three formula, with some variations.

Learn Spell is just what it sounds like: if you complete the puzzle, you learn a spell. The trick is that you have to clear the puzzle board of all the gems, by matching three or more. If some gems are left in the field or if you use up all your turns, you must try again.

Bash... well, who needs a key to open a locked door when you can use brute force? By matching gems you create "doors" on the puzzle field. Matching these door icons will cause the door to take damage. When the door's HP reach 0, you win and it opens. Watch out though, since you only have a limited number of moves. If you prefer to use Unlock spells to open doors, you have to to line up the gems with their respective icons overlaying the board before you use up all your turns.

Searching a room will reveal hidden things, such as treasure, a trap, doors or monsters. To search you must "turn" a certain number of tiles on the board. Tiles are turned by matching gems in those spots.

Disarm is done by creating certain numbers of matches for each icon, with the turns available. You must watch for skulls on the board and avoid matching those. Picking a lock is similar, but you must make vertical matches in each column.

Looting can be the most rewarding of the mini-games, and sometimes the most frustrating too. As you match coins, cups and crows, you accumulate gold. If you match 4 of a kind, you get a common chest. If you match 5 of a kind, you get a rare chest. Matching common chests gives you items and materials, while matching fine chests gets you rare items. There is a limited number of moves and the puzzle field will get smaller every other move, adding blocks to the bottom row and removing whatever gems there were in that row. It's my favorite mini-game. Well, maybe up there with bashing doors...

Fighting is still the main portion of Puzzle Quest 2. Encounters are interesting, since now you have a few different features to use. First, there are no gold or experience gems anymore. Skulls and five mana colors are still there. Skulls will do direct damage, mana will accumulate so you can use your spells and skills. But now we also have action gems (the black gauntlets), which give you AP (action points) allowing you to use your equipped weapon to do direct damage.

That's right, your hero can equip weapons and armor now. Armor is mostly used for defense, although some pieces can have extra bonuses. But for the most part, you equip whatever offers the highest defense rating. Depending on your class, you can use one-hand or two-hand weapons, shields and mana tonics. It is important to choose the appropriate weapons for each class, because of their abilities and how much AP they require to be used. The use of these new features makes the battles faster and more engaging, giving them a little more depth and more options aside from the use of mana or skulls. If you want to have a sneak peek at what it's like, you can try the Puzzle Quest Mage Trainer Facebook App.

As for other features, the graphic style has been greatly improved and it would be unfair not to praise the fantastic artwork. Character portraits are colourful and detailed, and monster/character sprites aren't too shabby either. The environments are simple and may get somewhat repetitive, but the isometric view does give it something extra. Voice acting was a welcome surprise too, and as usual, the music is excellent.

I am glad Puzzle Quest has gone back to its roots, preserving the original formula but making it much more engaging and even more addictive. At 1200 MSP, match-three has never been this good!

Special thanks to Sarissa Thrower and D3 Publisher for providing a copy of this title.

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