The makers of Puzzle Quest have manage to dumb down, confuse, and let down players by following up their smash hit game with the much weaker Puzzle Kingdoms.
Puzzle Kingdoms’ box art has Puzzle Quest plastered all over it, from the name drop on the front to the similar looking game template on the back. Do not be deceived, however, as Puzzle Quest this is not.
In fact, if you have never played Puzzle Quest, you will have no idea how the hell to play this game. Even with the tutorial options turned on, the game still does not explain the mechanics of the game whatsoever. The only way to figure out the confusing gameplay is to just randomly play the game, pay close attention to every detail, and maybe even take your own notes. Due to the total lack of an in-game tutorial/hint system, players should also know that the instruction booklet is an absolute joke. First off, in today’s gaming age, players should not have to reference the instruction booklet. If you do, you already failed. Secondly, you know you have a game with low production values when the instruction booklet doesn’t even contain any instructions. Simply terrible.
If you do manage to give this game some patience, you will find that it is a broken “match 3” puzzle game. Switching turns with the computer AI, the goal is to line up three of the same symbol. When combined, each symbol performs a different task. For example, linking together three yellow symbols will add gold to your purse, which you can use to recruit more troops. Combine three sword icons and you can attack your opponent. But what makes Puzzle Kingdoms so uncomfortable, is that you have to move entire rows/columns at one time; you cannot simply swap two adjacent pieces. Using this format makes the player think in an entirely new way, and it just feels unnatural.
The player does not simply go into a puzzle match and fight. Instead, you must recruit peons to fight for you, and if you lose your fighters, you are forced to restart at the cost of your gold. Adding characters to your posse does not enhance the gameplay, but rather, puts more of a limit on it. This means that the story now has to take a backseat since you are playing as worthless characters instead of evolving one main character both in an RPG fashion and through plot advancement. Further, the player does not even have the option to customize the main character. You cannot even enter your own name, but must pick from a randomly generated name generator. WTF!?
The gameplay absolutely suffers, but so does the rest of the game’s presentation. The overhead map is basically made of a low res jpg that lacks any type of detail making it hard to distinguish the different symbols and text on screen. The puzzle screen also just looks…blurry. I played this game on a HDTV using the highest output possible by the Wii’s hardware and everything just has a blur to it. There are a bunch of other problems as well, such as the game randomly locking up and using a broken save system. Why can’t I just save my game when I want? How come I have to boot back to the main menu every time!? Super frustrating.
It is quite obvious that Puzzle Kingdoms had a low budget to work with. They tried to recreate Puzzle Quest to make another quick buck, but fell completely flat. The budget $20 price tag should be a clear indicator of what to expect from this title. Everything about this game fails, from the gameplay, to the presentation, to the visuals. The only reason why someone would want to play this game is to see what NOT to do when making a game. Leave Puzzle Kingdoms in the bin and go download a real game – Puzzle Quest.