Now that the year is coming to a close video game journalists all across the world are starting to think about what game deserves to be their pick of "Game of the Year." Should it be a fan favorite like Halo 3? Or maybe it should go to a game like BioShock, whose storytelling is second to none. There's no doubt about it, there have been a lot of great games released this year ... and still more on the way (such as Mass Effect and Rock Band). But despite all of these high profile games that will no doubt grace everybody's best-of lists, my personal favorite game of the year doesn't have huge explosions, top of the line graphics or a $60 price tag. In fact, my favorite game of the year is a multi-platform title that just about anybody can get into, no matter how long they've been into video gaming. You see, my favorite game of the year is Puzzle Quest: Challengers of the Warlords.
I've been in love with Puzzle Quest since I received the preview build of the game back in January, I knew from the moment I played my first battle that this game was made for me. In the months leading up to its release I tried everything I could to convince all of my friends that this was worth buying; the relatively simple nature and the addictive gameplay made this a must-own in my opinion. Most of these people were understandably skeptical, the game's name isn't exactly instill a lot of confidence (even if it does sum up the game perfectly) and it's not always easy to get action-loving gamers into what looks like a Bejeweled knock-off. But they bit, and soon enough I had lured all of my friends into the wonderful world of Puzzle Quest.
Being the fan I am, I decided it was my duty to go through both the PSP and Nintendo DS version of the game, both of which I highly recommended (even if the PSP version is just slightly better than its touch screen counterpart). The game's quick battles made this a perfect portable experience, and at $30 the price tag was just right. Despite the fact that I put more than 500 hours into the two games, after a few months I ended up putting the game down and taking a lengthy break from my favorite game of the year. Part of the problem is that I'm always getting new games to play and review, just when I find that one game I feel I can play for years on end another title pops into my mail box and sucks me in. Needless to say, I looked forward to playing this Xbox Live Arcade version of the game so that I had an excuse to give Puzzle Quest another go.
Released last week on Microsoft's download service, Puzzle Quest: Challengers of the Warlords is easily one of the best (if not the best) game currently available on the Xbox Live Arcade. This is a massive adventure game that will have you glued to your TV set solving puzzles, battling fantastical enemies and going online to fight one-on-one with a whole world of other Puzzle Quest fans. In other words, this is just about the best version of Puzzle Quest you can buy ... and it's yours for the cheap price of $15 (1200 Microsoft Points).
Puzzle Quest is not an easy game to describe; it's the wacky combination of the popular puzzle game Bejeweled and a traditional turn-based role-playing game. That's right; this is a role-playing puzzle game, perhaps the strangest pairing since Final Lap Twin (the role-playing racing game). But while it may sound strange (and maybe not even appealing), Puzzle Quest manages to get every element just right and provides one of the very best video game experiences of the year.
For the most part Puzzle Quest is played like a traditional role-playing game; you have a little guy who you must navigate through a large map and go from city to city talking to townspeople and accepting various quests. As you peruse the local castle you'll be able to stock up on items, upgrade your stats, buy new weapons/armor, and learn a little more about whom you are and what you're doing there. It's not until you leave the castle, mission in hand, that you discover that this is no ordinary role-playing game ... this is something altogether different, something MUCH better.
Instead of traditional RPG battles, all of the combat is done using a Bejeweled-like puzzle game. When you enter a battle you will see a large board made up of 64 squares (8 tall by 8 wide). In those 64 spaces you will see a number of different icons, including four different colored "mana" pieces, gold coins, purple experience point pieces, and human skulls. It's your job to find a way of connecting these pieces so that you can combine three or more of the same object. Each player takes turns connecting the items until somebody has lost all of their health.
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