Jumping on the Bed!

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Archive for the 'DS' Category

Puzzle Quest

Puzzle Quest: Undead

I love simple games. What’s more, I love when the simple games we used to play as children grow up with us. Sometimes it doesn’t work very well, and sometimes the results are down-right brilliance.

Take the simple premise of tic-tac-toe and expand it. The 3×3 playing field now becomes seven times larger at 8×8 which gives the opportunity to do a whole lot of fun strategy back into the game. Then instead of the same old connect three, wipe them away, repeat. Connect four for some sort of cool bonus. Give an awesome reward for connecting five to hook the player with a little mini goal. Now you’ve taken a great simple game and expanded its world.

Sabrina introduced me to a game called Bejeweled 2 a couple of summers ago. They not only melded all of those wonderful game play mechanics, but they did the one thing that I can never resist. They made that fucker shiny. There are 64 glowing, swirling, chiming gems on the screen that beckon you to play with them in their happy little extra-terrestrial world. Not only that, but when you start a string of “combos” as gems line up and trigger other connections, the screen is awash in an orgasm of exploding gems.

The best part of the game is the “Endless Mode” that just keeps going and going, rewarding you with a wheel of gems to fill in with each level requiring more and more points to continue to the next. It’s a great way to just blow of steam at the end of the day devote 10 minutes in order to get just one more gem. Well, that level didn’t seem too long, perhaps another gem. Oooh, only two more and I get another meta-gem. I wonder what colour it will be. Next thing you know either one of two things happens. Dawn creeps up at you and you curse yourself for not getting any sleep, or your computer crashes which is the sure-fire way to know that you’ve been on the damned thing for too long again.

Infinite Interactive takes the Bejeweled concepts and wraps them all up in an RPG element. Go download the PC Demo now while you finish reading this entry. (you can thank me later)

Four coloured “mana” orbs for Water, Earth, Fire, Air, piles of gold, purple experience stars, and attack skulls are at your disposal to wage battles against your enemies. There are bonuses when you line up more than three of any one kind of item, and of course you can pull off combos which seem like utter chaos.

The PC demo allows you to build a character up to level 7. Eventually I2 will officially announce a PC version of the game, but until then it is available exclusively to the Nintendo DS, and the Sony PSP. Sabrina was very considerate and let me borrow her DS while she’s away kicking ass in college (straight A student). After playing the demo for about fifteen minutes, I knew that both Sabrina and myself would love this game, so I picked a copy up from FYE. They actually had two copies left, so I didn’t feel too bad about whorking one for us to share.

The DS game is almost identical to the PC version. The screen layout is a little different (characters are on the top screen with the battle grid and spells on the bottom) and the animations aren’t quite a smooth. Considering I had gone from a 3.2Ghz Dual-core Intel with 2Gb of ram and an ATI x600 video card to a little hand-held system, I wasn’t going to begrudge the title fewer animations. The music is quite loud, and I’ve found that I have to put it to the 2nd to lowest setting in order to hear the characters say anything, otherwise it’s just too overwhelming. Also, the music seems to be choppy. I’m not sure if it’s trying to do too much at once, or if the audio rendering engine of the DS can’t handle whatever synthesis Puzzle Quest is trying to make it do.

Otherwise the game is the same. The stylus works very well as an interface tool. I can’t even imagine how clunky it would be to use a D-pad on a PSP. I’ll stick with mouse or stylus any day. I have noticed that the game seems to be about 65% skill, 30% luck, with a 5% wtf factor mixed together when fighting enemies. There really isn’t any consistency. After getting trounced by a vampire bat five times, the planets align correctly and the sixth try has the magic and I’m able to progress in the game. That reason alone will likely deter anyone with bad luck in games, like Mancer.

There is a fun little plot to follow while you’re gaining xp’s and adjusting your skill levels throughout the game. The game isn’t linear, so if you want to go patrolling to wipe out that skeleton over and over again, feel free. Just remember that the enemies level up with you. Kind of like the worst Final Fantasy (VIII), you can be a level 50 Warrior with the best magic, weapons, and armor but be careful, that slime over has a fair chance of whooping your ass.

For people like me who may get pissed, but persevere, the game is pretty much crack in a shiny little hand-held. If you don’t have a DS, just be patient, and the full game will come out eventually. There should be some sort of “Official” announcement soon, but who knows. Judging by the scarcity of the game now it should be a surprise hit. Of course, when Penny-Arcade heartily recommends the game not once, but twice… well, lets just say that I have a feeling that it certainly won’t hurt the game’s sales.

Wherever the game gets its props, it deserves them. It’s a lot of fun, and battles can be over in minutes so you can fit a couple in during lunch, or in transit to work, or in the middle of class, or when you should be sleeping. Just remember that when you’re staring at the clock wondering how the hell it could be 3:47am, you have no one else to blame but yourself. Or perhaps the person who sent you the demo which should be installed by now, right?