The evil Gorgon has taken over the village, and you have to smite him and his dark entourage. Sharpen the axe, polish the sword and practise those wand moves because we are in for some serious battles. It is hard to find more engaging match three gameplay than that found in the Puzzle Quest game formula. At times it feels almost as intense as pulling of some sick combos in Street Fighter IV. Puzzle Quest 2 keeps the excellent match three game mechanics, but mixes it up with poor user interface and a slow game world.
If you aren’t familiar with the gameplay of Puzzle Quest then I urge you to read Dave’s review, and buy the original right away. Come back in about 80 hours when you have finished all the original had to offer, and I will tell you more. If you are like me, and have spent weeks matching skulls you can read on right away.
Puzzle Quest 2 is both brilliant, and a journey in frustration. The core of the gameplay is still as addictive as ever. Match gems, skulls and gauntlet to kill your opponent. Gauntlets lets you use your weapon to attack, skulls are instant and gems stack up mana letting you cast spells. The touch controls when matching works well, and as you can take your time there is no need to hurry. There is no penalty for illegal moves either, which is great as it was really easy to mess up in the first game. The user interface when it comes to using spells, and weaponry is less good though. The touch buttons demand you to keep touching for too long, or fails to register altogether. This can be tweaked easily in an update, as it is more tailored for a stylus at the moment.
The meat of the game is the quest mode, and sadly it is inferior to the original. Instead of a simple overview map you get to walk around a map one zoomed in square at a time. This takes quite some time, as the touch controls are off. You touch a destination, character or loot item and get the context menu. Generally this only consist of “walk to the east” or cancel, but too often the choice doesn’t register. As the game is fairly linear with only the odd side quest you get to walk following a question mark to the next objective. It takes too much effort, and it doesn’t feel like I am progressing at all. Me, and my wife both spent ages completing the original on both Nintendo DS and iPhone. Now my wife quit about two hours into the quest, and I wish I could have done that as well. The life of a reviewer isn’t always glory days.
There are some variations to the match three formula such as searching for loot, and opening doors. These non-combat elements only add to the feeling of not progressing in the quest. You can get a map view for certain areas, but most of the time it is just following the question marks blindly. As the original felt non-linear it is sad how the quest mode has been manhandled.
Upgrading your character is always nice, and you have quite a lot of freedom to develop any of the four classes in the direction you want. Buying new gear, and learning new spells affect the gameplay. If you want to just play the match three game, and skip the quest you can certainly do so. Quick battle, and mini games are available. A tournament mode letting you set up two teams to do battle is also really nifty, and lets you sample different spells and styles of gameplay. Currently there is no multiplayer in the game, and no online high score service available. There are local achievements in the game.
The presentation is ok, but not great. As I mentioned earlier the user interface is a bit off, and that is both when it comes to controls and graphics. Puzzle Quest 2 feels like two games when it comes to presentation. The match three game looks quite good, with nice effects when doing matches. There are some pitiful slowdowns even on my iPhone 4 when pulling off some wicked moves. The quest game world looks bland, and feels boring. Characters stand around looking bored, and the backgrounds are washed out. There are no sharp retina graphics to be seen when walking around. The cut scenes look great though, and comes with great ominous voice acting.
Ambient orchestral music sets the medieval fantasy tone well, and the sound effects are quite alright. There is no option to play your own music, but you can override the game music using a headset.
Puzzle Quest 2 is a hard game to rate. The gameplay in the match three section is excellent, and you can play it for ages. Sadly the quest mode is not that good, and it soon started grating on me. As you can experience the gameplay without venturing into the quest mode at all the game gains some goodwill. The omission of a multiplayer mode is a setback, as it can definitely be done technically. In the end I can recommend the game to any fan who have already played the first to the end. For newcomers of the series start with the original before purchasing Puzzle Quest 2.
Puzzle Quest 2 $