previews\ Dec 10, 2006 at 7:00 pm

Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords - NDS - Preview

Hmm, how best to describe Puzzle Quest? Take a puzzle game in which you link three or more similar items (sort of like Bejeweled) to rack up points and perhaps damage your opponent, add a touch of the game Risk, then put those elements into a role-playing game with some of the elements that define that genre.

Of course, add to all that the idea that the game is a handheld title for the PSP and Nintendo DS and publisher D3Publisher may have a hit on its hands. The title was shown during a D3Publishing event in San Francisco recently.

The gameplay is addictive, that much is certain. The game’s quest mode has 40-plus hours of gameplay, with more than 100 quests available. There are four character classes – warrior, knight, wizard and druid. You begin with one fortress and your hero, running about on some quests. Eventually you will get into a battle, in which you take turns in the aforementioned Bejeweled style. But the battles are customizable as well. You can set turn time limits of between 4 and 16 seconds, and battles can last from three to 10 minutes total.

The main difference between the platforms (aside from the PSP graphics being stronger) is that the DS only has two character slots, while the PSP will allow the gamer to create as many characters as his or her memory card will allow. The puzzle controls are easy with the DS, though, as it uses the stylus and touchscreen to select tokens on the puzzle battle screen.

The characters adventure, can claim new cities (like the Risk reference) and build an empire. As the player levels, they gain skill points to distribute in class attributes. The quest mode is not the only way to build a character. Instant action and multiplayer will both allow players to battle and gain experience points for the character he or she uses.

Everything is aimed at allowing players to customize their characters, and while the story is essentially the same with each play-through, but the experience is subtly different with each new character.

While D3P was showing a lot of titles, this was one game that was like a lure that kept drawing me back time and again. Jump in, battle, jump out, go see a different game, circle back and Ok, one more battle.

Graphically the game is solid. It looks like handheld RPG, with the camera high above and little sprites serving as the character models and fortresses. One would almost expect to hear some cheesy music, but on the contrary, the score was decent for the title.

Puzzle Quest has so many solid game mechanics blended together well into what should be an entertaining and addictive gaming experience. Look for this game to launch in March 2007.

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