iPad Game Review: Puzzle Quest 2 Reviewed by Tom Slayton
Puzzle Quest 2 (PQ2) is a match-3 game wrapped up in role playing armor. This extra layer adds far more than just atmosphere, however. It gives focus and intensity to a game type that is typically known for its unfocused and even haphazard gameplay. PQ2 is a huge improvement over the first iterations (increasingly inappropriately named Puzzle Quest: Chapter1 and Puzzle Quest: Chapter 2) in every way, and is a game that I found difficult to stop playing. PQ2 is a universal iOS game, that will run full-screen on an iPad, and will also work on an iPhone or an iPod Touch.
Puzzle Quest 2 begins with the player selecting one of the typical role playing classes, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Once your alter ego is selected and named, you are unceremoniously dropped into a world of spectacularly helpless peasants and ravenous monsters; the latter of these will engage you in a variety of match-3 contests while the former will reward your victories. The adventure portion of the game is where you will receive/finish quests and buy/sell/upgrade equipment. The real meat of the game, however, involves competitive match-3 battles and match-3 mini games. What sets the gameplay apart here, however, is that, as I previously mentioned, each class has different abilities, and requires different strategies. For example, if you develop a strong warrior, you will want to seek the matches that allow you to use your weapons, whereas a wizard will be seeking to match specific gems to amass the right kind of mana to use the more powerful spells associated with that class.
Adding yet another layer is the presence of direct damage matches (skulls) and the fact that some monsters are particularly vulnerable to certain gem colors but are healed/made stronger by others. Understanding how to capitalize on your character class' strengths while at the same time hitting the bad guys where they hurt, is essential to success. To help you achieve this, the designers have graciously omitted any sort of game timer, making this game both exciting and relaxing at the same time (if that's even possible). If this all seems a bit overwhelming, fear not; the game difficulty ramps up slowly, giving you plenty of time to learn the nuances of the game.
PQ2 is also riddled with numerous mini games (all match-3), which will either slow down your progress or prevent the game from growing monotonous, depending on your point of view. These mini games all have specific goals, and are different enough from the pitched match-3 battles that I found myself welcoming the variety. Quick Battle and Endurance game modes, as well as Game Center Achievements round out PQ2's feature set; all of which add a great deal of replayability to the game.
One final thought regarding the gameplay: I am not a fan of match-3 games. I find them endlessly repetitive and completely uninteresting. Puzzle Quest 2, however, grabs me by the nostrils and holds my interest by giving me tangible goals and strategies, both of which vary from battle to battle. In short, even if you're not a match-3 kind of person, give PQ2 a try. It made a believer out of me.
The graphics in Puzzle Quest 2 look very good on the iPad. Not eye-poppingly good, mind you; but very good just the same. The upside here is the game is a lot easier on your battery without the sensory-overloading 3D effects present on some games; none of which, by the way, would enhance the actual gameplay one bit. The isometric adventure mode view is a big upgrade from the map view in PQ1, and helps a great deal with the immersion factor. The match-3 screen is nicely rendered and very colorful, although the buttons are a bit smallish on an iPhone/iPod Touch.
Navigating in the adventure mode has been streamlined with the presence of flashing arrows and bright, cheerful question marks identifying the locations you need to visit. This is a very welcome touch and prevented me from wandering aimlessly while searching for quest givers, etc.
The sound effects in PQ2 are very good; especially considering this is a match-3 game. The mystical, airy soundtrack is easy to listen to, and matches the atmosphere nicely. If you prefer, you can disable all game sounds and music in the options menu, however, it does not allow you to play music from your iTunes library while playing.
Puzzle Quest 2 is a polished, refreshing take on the match-3 genre, and is light years ahead of its predecessor. The varied goals of each battle, coupled with numerous available strategies, make this game a winner. The graphics, while not overly flashy, are clean and crisp, and quite easy on the eyes; and the sound/music fits the game perfectly.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 4 - While not cutting edge, the graphics are very good, and look great. Sound: - 4 - Perfectly appropriate sound effects for a match-3 game, with a pleasing soundtrack. No iPod music support, however. Controls: - 4 - Accurate touch interface is simple to understand and doesn?t get in the way of the gameplay. The buttons are a bit small on an iPhone/iPod Touch, however. Gameplay: - 5 - An excellent blending of match-3 and RPG. the battles are nicely varied, as are the available strategies. Game Center Support is included for achievements.
Playing Hints and Tips:
Take your time finding the right matches as there is no timer. Be focused when selecting your stats/weapons to upgrade. Make sure they complement your chosen class.