Lies they told me about Puzzle Quest
Despite the title, Puzzle Quest is not a puzzle game. The game tricked me into playing it, and I can’t seem to distance myself from it just yet. But it lied! I like both puzzles and quests, so latching onto a puzzle quest seemed reasonable to me. It still seems reasonable, but this game didn’t provide it.
Puzzle Quest is more a strategy game with quests that uses Bejeweled as the battle interface. A simple puzzle game like Tetris only requires that I complete lines. Columns only requires matching colors. Bejeweled requires matching colors on a grid that is always full. Puzzle Quest turns them all on their ears by sharing the same grid with players who alternate turns, and each color or object on the board has different properties. Match skulls to cause the opponent damage that depletes his reserve hit points (HP), match odd purple shapes to increase your experience points, match gold coins to increase your money count, and match green, red, blue, and yellow runes to add to your stock of runes for magic spells and special attacks. Yes, magic spells and special attacks. So, in a way, this game is about resource management.
That’s not the end of my stance on the game’s being a strategy game. Strategy comes in the form of knowing what runes monsters use for their own attacks. So it’s not simply about matching up what’s best for you but also stealing the resources that are most beneficial to an opponent. I’ve pretty much just started the game, but I’m battling an opponent who can regenerate his HP if he manages to collect 7 blue runes. My strategy changed from, “Hurt him, hurt him! Kill him, kill him!” to, “Go blue!” Still hasn’t turned out too well for me in the end because my character is pretty drastically underpowered compared to the monster, but it did help me to last longer and pick up some more experience and gold.
Being a strategy game does not make this game bad. It’s a pretty fun game overall. I wander to castles, they tell me to go kill monsters, and then we share in a game of bejeweled. I even captured a giant rat that my character is now riding from place to place. It’s so absurd that I can’t complain.
What I can complain about is the fact that the game cheats. As the player, you deplete runes from the screen and don’t know what new ones will drop down from above. The computer always knows. The computer manages to setup chains of rune depletion that require knowledge of what’s to come versus what will simply fall into place from what is already on screen. A player can get lucky and cause such chains himself, but don’t count on it happening all the time. To make things worse, sometimes the computer will make suggestions for your next move if you take too long to find something. 7 times out of 10, the computer is giving you something to set itself up to hurt you. Don’t listen unless you have discovered that it is indeed the best move. Otherwise, look above and notice that the single skull next to the column you just cleared out is now in perfect placement with two new skulls that computer will now use against you. It’s pretty much bullshit.
Then there are the special rune guardian monsters that have special items that make them harder to defeat. Presumably, this just means their attacks do more damage. I got hit for 36 HP in one attack alone, which hurt because I only had 72 to start. This wouldn’t be so bad if it hadn’t happened after the bad guy already hit me with a chain combo of five that the computer lauded as a “Heroic Effort”, netting the enemy experience points that it can’t even use. Yeah, it used foreknowledge of the rune drops against me, and then it hit me for half of my life. I didn’t realize that bullshit could be a special item. Before I even try linking my game up to someone else’s, I should find myself some bullshit items.
Aside from these hangups, the game is great and disgustingly addicting. While neurologists, therapists, doctors, etc. might suggest a 15 minute activity or something during those nights when you can’t sleep, Puzzle Quest should not be considered. You can’t play the game for 15 minutes. 3 hours is more accurate. This game is so horrible that even when you don’t have the time limit turned on, you can’t play it too casually. It’s hard to watch TV and play the game because you’ll be studying the grid instead of realizing that the eclipse is over and Nathan can fly again. Just do yourself a favor early in the game and take up this strategy – reflective armor, so every time the bad guys score a hit on you, they still lose HP.