There’s an epic struggle ahead of Neopets Puzzle Adventure. The goofy box art, the cartoony character designs, even the name of the game itself all strike fear into the hearts of “serious” gamers everywhere. But know this, all those who step away without dabbling in the Puzzle Quest-meets-Nickelodeon world of Puzzle Adventure – there’s a surprisingly fun and addicting title buried under the saccharine license.
Above: A good reason to walk away… but don’t!
Ever played Othello or Reversi? That’s it. That’s all this is. You place blue tiles, your opponent places red tiles and the goal is to surround their pieces with yours, thereby swapping their colors. Essentially you’re trying to bookend each others’ tiles. Whoever has the most color on the board when every tile is taken up (or there are no more possible moves) wins. But, as Puzzle Quest fiddled with Bejeweled, so does Neopets with Othello, adding flair here and there to invigorate a timeless, well known game.
Place a proper tile and you’ll swap colors in multiple directions, triggering a random tile of their color to switch to yours, which could in turn cause a whole other series of chained events. Similarly, your Neopet’s pets (sickeningly called Petpets) further rearrange the board; able to be summoned once per battle, they’ll allow you to swap colors of targeted tiles, randomly remove opponent’s pieces or even let you take two turns in a row. Before long the age-old tale of Othello feels fresh and new, just as Bejeweled did after it was slathered in ghouls, goblins and Lord of the Rings-style atmosphere.
So then, the question really becomes, is Othello itself fun enough to justify remaking to such extent? We all know chess, checkers, Bejeweled and Hexic, but what about this one? We say yes, even after 50-70 matches of the game. The fact that every piece you lose is a gain for the other guy keeps you laser-focused on the game, always trying to think two moves ahead. This delicate balance is somewhat thrown out of whack with the Petpets though, as last-minute deployments of their powers almost always result in a win – against the computer at least.
And while the core game is inviting, easy to grasp and simple enough for casual dabbling, there’s no sense of accomplishment as with Puzzle Quest. Our custom-created Neopet gained levels every so often, but there were no stat points or drastic changes to his abilities that we came across. You’re able to use more and more Petpets as the far-too-chatty adventure mode wears on, but that’s apparently it in the way of level progression.
Stranger still are the three bonus modes, Forging, Training and Quick Draw. The first two are names of Puzzle Quest modes that actually affect the main quest; in Puzzle Adventure they’re simple minigames that have no bearing on the rest of the game. It would have been fun to level up your Petpets or utilize the time spent playing these side games in some way instead of them taking place in a void. Training is just a memory card game and Quick Draw has you tracing designs that fly past the screen, so they’re more like once-or-twice affairs; Forging’s template, where you bust same-colored blocks until there are none on the screen, could almost be its own game if it had more depth.
If you’re super into Neopets the game does hand out codes to put into neopets.com/puzzleadventure that act like Xbox Achievements and show off to other pet people what you’ve done in the game. It’s all technically worthless and useless though, so this a perk solely for people who were probably going to buy this anyway. The rest of us, however, who likely need a casual respite from serious games or a soul-crushing commute, can easily and happily kill some time with the multicolored denizens of Neopia.
Nov 26, 2008