Puzzle Quest comes with dozens of different missions, including optional side-quests and a fully realized story full of bosses, plot twists and actual characters. At their core, most missions are nothing more than going to some cave or town, battling the monsters, collecting a special item, and then taking it back to where you first got your quest. With most role-playing games this one-sided mission structure would get old after only a few quests, but not in Puzzle Quest. Because the battles are so much fun (and so different from one to another) you'll look forward to every fetch quest, regardless of how many times you've been to that one cave or mountain top. Since you never really control your character's walking (instead you point to the place you want to go and he walks there by himself) you don't have to worry too much about spending all of your time just wandering around looking for enemies to fight and loot to pick up. Puzzle Quest cuts out all of the things you don't like about role-playing games and adds some of the most exciting puzzle-based battles you'll ever see.
Another thing that separates Puzzle Quest from the Final Fantasy's of the world is that the battles only take a few minutes to complete. No matter what skill you are, most battles only last three to five minutes, which is extremely short when compared to most of the epic RPGs released these days. These short battles work out perfectly when you only have a few minutes to play the game and want to make some progress. No matter if you win or lose, the way the game is set up you'll end up making progress no matter what.
Like all role-playing games, Puzzle Quest is all about you leveling up your character, improving your stats, buying new weapons/armor and developing your character into a massive killing machine. Each of the four character types (be it a druid, knight, warrior or wizard) can go all the way up to level 50, which gives them access to the best spells, weapons, etc. Best of all, the four character types play completely differently; depending on who you pick you'll get different spells, armor, weapons, and other items. Unlike a lot of RPGs, Puzzle Quest has a lot of replay value.
What's great about the Puzzle Quest world is that the more you explore the more stuff you'll find. Along with the great battles, you can also earn friends who will travel with you, animals you can fly on, and all sorts of other wild additions that can potentially change the way you play the game. While a game like Final Fantasy XII is probably deeper, Puzzle Quest is certainly no slouch. There's so much to do and see in this game that you'll probably still be playing it long after you've beaten the game and maxed out your hero. I personally have put in well over 500 hours into it between the PSP and Nintendo DS version, and I still get a rush every time I pick up the portable and jump into this fantastical world.
The fictional world of Puzzle Quest has a lot of familiar faces; if you've played other fantasy role-playing games then you're going to feel right at home. I'm talking about trolls, dragons, imps, zombies and a whole host of other creatures. Part of the fun of Puzzle Quest is just going around and trying to capture each and every one of the 51 monster types, especially if you want to learn all of the spells and exert your dominance over the world map.
This Nintendo DS version of the game uses the touch screen display to its full advantage; all of the battles are performed using the stylus and the bottom screen. For the most part it's easy to move the pieces around, but I did find that every so often I would accidentally move the wrong piece and mess myself up. Part of the reason for this is because all of the pieces are extremely small; they have to be if you're going to fit 64 items onto one screen. The PSP version of the game offers larger, more detailed pieces, but the game play is the same regardless of which portable you play it on.
While Puzzle Quest is not about amazing graphics and stunning CGI cinemas, the graphics are pretty good for what they are trying to do. The problem with judging a game like this is that you're constantly going from battle to the world map, so there isn't much time for beautiful graphics. The world map looks good, and it's fun to go from area to area because of how different everything is (even if the battles look the same every time). The battle graphics look fine, but don't expect to be wowed by amazing animation or detailed enemies. This is just not that kind of game; this is not a showpiece for the power of the Nintendo DS.
When you're not trudging through side-quests and story missions, you do have the opportunity to go in and just challenge different enemies. This is actually a lot of fun because it allows you to play the best part of the game (the puzzle battles) without worrying about wandering around the map looking for enemies to kill. There is also a fun one-on-one battle mode that allows you to challenge your friends to a game of Puzzle Quest. On paper this mode sounds great, unfortunately very little time was spent making this a must-play multiplayer mode. That's actually really disappointing, I can only imagine how much fun it would be to play a really exciting multiplayer version of this game.
But who cares how unspectacular the multiplayer mode is? Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords is easily one of the strongest single-player games of the year. It's the type of game that almost anybody can get into, and best of all you can play the entire game with only one hand. If you set out to complete every mission and max out your characters skills, then chances are you'll be involved with this game for hundreds of hours. And even after you've seen and done everything, you'll want to go back and do it all over again ... the game is that addictive. It may have a silly name, but Puzzle Quest is one of those games that everybody should own. Even if you're not into puzzlers or role-playing games, this is definitely one game you can't let slip by.
Puzzle Quest is easily one of the best games of the year, it offers a crazy mix of puzzle and role-playing elements to create something that is fun no matter what type of gamer you are.
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