IGN Review of Puzzle Kingdoms
The critical and commercial success of Puzzle Quest has driven Infinite Interactive to keep doing the same formula: take an existing, familiar Match Three puzzle game and encapsulate it into a broader game design where the removed tiles affects your performance. Puzzle Kingdoms is similar to Puzzle Quest but it's not the same, and unlike Puzzle Quest the production values for Puzzle Kingdoms are a little shoddy: the gameplay is pretty solid but everything else about the game feels incredibly rushed and low budget.
The core mechanics that Puzzle Kingdoms uses feels "inspired" by Nintendo's own Pokemon Trozei: in each turn, players slide tiles in an entire column or row to match up three of a kind. In Puzzle Kingdoms they don't have to be side-by-side, they can be clustered together in an L shape, a T orientation…just as long as they're all linked together vertically and horizontally the group will count and get zapped away.
Just like Puzzle Quest, Galactrix, and other Infinite Interactive puzzle games, the tiles you remove give you attack power in the battle. Each level pits players against an opposing force, and you're taking turns making moves, one at a time. In Puzzle Kingdom you fight the opponent with attacks from soldiers you purchase. You can have as many as four units in your army, and you can use them to attack the other person's army when you've fulfilled a specific quota of tiles. For example, some soldiers require at least two sets of green tile groups to be removed before they're powered up for the attack. Once they're ready, you can choose to use their power in a turn instead of sliding tiles around, weakening or killing off one of their soldiers. The battle ends when one side loses all of its troops. If you're the one that loses, you can come back to the fight with half the gold you've accumulated in the victories that have come before the defeat.
Though the game has this aura of Puzzle Quest about it, it's a completely different experience with its shift in gameplay mechanics and strategy. It's engaging and definitely has that addictive quality that Puzzle Quest has.
But the game has this overall "low budget" feel to it. Sure, it's hitting the system at the low price of $20, but we've experienced far deeper DS games at this pricepoint. I usually wouldn't complain about visuals in a Match Three puzzler, but this game's meant to be much more than that, and the stuff beyond the core mechanic are shoddily developed. The game's cutscenes are dreadfully dull and unimaginative, full of implied action but never really showing much beyond sliding character profiles. And during the fight, the attack animations – if you can call them animated – are incredibly low-color and dithered. Multiplayer is only offered in a hot-seat fashion, requiring two players to share the same system and take turns – but the game does a poor job telling the player when to hand the system over. Obviously the better way of handling Vs. multiplayer is through the use of the DS system's wireless connectivity, but the development team opted out of this standard in favor of an inferior, awkward interface.
Puzzle Kingdom's soundtrack, however, hasn't been skimped on and sounds fantastic. Why couldn't that same attention to detail have been applied to the interface, cutscenes, or multiplayer options?
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