It’s been a long time coming since we heard Puzzle Quest 2 was going to grace the iPhone and iPad back in May and we were even able to preview an early build of the game. Puzzle Quest 2 is set to officially be released later tonight and tomorrow depending on your location and we’ve been toiling at the final version of the game so we can give you the goods on Namco’s port of the D3Publisher’s popular match-3 RPG. Did Namco learn from the mistakes Transgaming made with porting the original Puzzle Quest on the iPhone? There’s only one way to find out and that’s by continuing on with our review.
Just to give you a little background information on Puzzle Quest 2, the game is a sequel to D3Publisher’s hugely successful match-3 RPG game that originated on the Nintendo DS which then ended up on the Xbox LIVE Arcade, PC, and even on the iPhone. If you’re not familiar with what a match-3 RPG is, think Bejeweled, but with a story, characters, and gear like you would find in an RPG.
You start off by creating your character from one of four available classes: Assassin, Barbarian, Sorcerer, and Templar, each with a female and male version available if you feel the sex of your character is important. Changing your character’s sex is purely cosmetic, but each class has different strengths and weaknesses such as the Barbarian class being the most well rounded in offense and defense, while Sorcerers rely on their use of magic, both direct attacks and board manipulation, to get by.
Once your character is created you’ll be given a number of options. You’ll be able to dive right into the quest, or you can check your character’s inventory and spell book. You can also bypass the game’s quest and play a quick battle against a number of monsters that you’ll come across during your quest. The last option is an endurance mode where you’ll fight a number of monsters one after another that increase in difficulty as you progress.
Outside of the character related modes, you’ll also be able to partake in a number of mini-games based on the mini-games that are found in the quest mode, as well as a tournament mode which pits your team of four against the computer’s team of four. This mode allows you to take control of the monsters that are found in the quest mode, so if you have a particular favorite monster, this is the mode to show the game what you can do with them if given control.
As many different play options as there are in Puzzle Quest 2, I was hoping Namco would have delivered a multiplayer mode that can be found in the Xbox LIVE Arcade version of Puzzle Quest 2 as this game would add a lot more replay value if you could take on other players through Apple’s Game Center. If not through Game Center, then at least through local Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or even same device multiplayer as the game can easily be passed between two people to compete. This certainly doesn’t change my overall opinion of Puzzle Quest 2, just that the overall package would be even more appealing if there were multiplayer modes.
If you’ve played Puzzle Quest in the past, then you’ll notice the overall world map has changed significantly for the better. Instead of an map that you can navigate through, you’ll be adventuring at ground level which allows for better interactions with characters and monsters you’ll come across. You’ll adventure from location to location looking for characters to help, which will either have a gold or silver exclamation point over their head indicating they have a quest for you. Two types of quest are available: Main and side quests. Main quests direct you along the game’s main story line, while side quests don’t need to be completed, but you’ll receive bonus experience, gold, or sometimes gear after completion, so they’re certainly worth your time.
Navigating through the game is as easy as tapping on an area and commanding your character to move. There aren’t any surprises as to when or where an enemy will attack as they’re all in plain sight in the game world and requires you to tap them in order to initiate combat. Each move to a new location requires a small loading time, although the loading times seem to be noticeably worse on the iPhone version.
When you decide to combat an enemy, the battle takes place on a board filled with colored mana orbs, skulls, and gloves. Each orb, skull, and glove needs to be matched by at least three in order to be used. The colored mana orbs are collected into your mana pool and can be used to execute your spells, skulls are used to perform direct attacks against your opponent, while gloves are collected in order to issue an attack with your character’s equipped weapon. Each spell and weapon require a specific amount of mana orbs and gloves to execute, which the game always has the amounts needed for each in plain sight.
Puzzle Quest 2 looks fantastic on the iPad as all of the art, animations, and special effects show what the device is capable of when put into expert hands. Contrary to that, the iPhone version doesn’t look as good as the iPad version. The game has not been optimized for the iPhone 4’s Retina Display, and it’s noticeable when you play on the device. Playing on an iPhone 3GS or 3G would be recommended if you don’t want to weep at how poor the graphics look on an iPhone 4. Both the iPad and iPhone versions of Puzzle Quest 2 still had a slight hiccup during combat when a melee attack is made, but it seems as though that issue only comes up when the attack is made for the first time as all additional melee attacks don’t have a lag.
FINAL THOUGHT: As Puzzle Quest 2 is a universal app, this saves me from picking one version over another as the iPad version would have trumped the iPhone version in its performance, ease of play, and graphics. That’s not to say if you only own an iPhone that you shouldn’t pick up this game as I feel it’s a superb addition to the App Store, but if you had to choose between playing it on either device, I strongly recommend the iPad version until Namco updates the iPhone version. Aside from those issues, Puzzle Quest 2 on both the iPhone and iPad are great ports of the original material and feel great to play on either device. The most important thing you should take away from my review is if you enjoy match-3 puzzle games, then you absolutely, positively need to get Puzzle Quest 2. It’s just that good.