Contender or Wanna-be?
The original Puzzle Quest took the gaming community by storm; an inventive blend of RPG mechanics and match puzzler, it defined a new sub-genre. And now the sequel looks to recapture the excitement of the original, while streamlining the experience. And for the most part, it succeeds.
The idea behind Puzzle Quest games is simple: take the matching game from Bejeweled as a way to earn mana, do damage to your opponent, etc., and layer in a turn-based RPG. The sequel refines many elements from the first, by removing experience and gold from the puzzle board, and by fixing the sometimes insane difficulty spikes against AI. 4 new classes appear in the game, with new abilities and spells. Gone are the mounts from the first game, replaced by weapons and potions, which require action points earned from the board. Instead of crafting items this time around, you upgrade them by spending gold and materials. The games visual style has also been redone, forgoing the large world game map for a more up-close, isometric view. You still are only moving between set waypoints, but the closer view makes the world feel more fleshed out.
The main problem with Puzzle Quest, remains with Puzzle Quest 2: A.I. After a certain point, the A.I. stops presenting any significant threat; between the two playthroughs I did, I died a total of 5 times (note: I was playing on the hardest difficulty). This is not to say that I would have preferred PQ2 to be punishingly challenging, but a better difficulty curve would have been appreciated. That aside, PQ2 remains as fun as the first one, if not as surprising; with no novelty to play on, we have only the core gameplay to admire. The crown for puzzler-RPG's has passed in my book to the more deserving Clash of Heroes, but second place is not bad at all.