iPhone App Review: Puzzle Quest Ep. 1&2
While the concept of Puzzle Quest is both frighteningly addictive and a whole lot of fun, the actual iPhone implementation reeks of a quick DS port without any attention to the detail or performance that iPhone users deserve. This review will be divided up into two sections, one reviewing the gameplay and the other reviewing the software itself.
Puzzle Quest’s basic gameplay involves matching colored gems in groups of 3, 4 and 5. Matching these gems supplies you with mana to cast spells that change existing runes on the board, deal direct damage to your opponent and/or provide you with bonuses like double-damage or improved defense. Matching skulls causes direct damage to your opponent and battles consist of taking turns back and forth until one of you wins. While random chains and luck will always play a factor in battles, the ability to level up your character, gain enemy spells, ride mounts that give you special powers, and improve yourself via gold and items means that over time you’ll feel your more powerful, while still being challenged due to a number of factors. Furthermore, the depth of all these things, including the ability to siege cities, do quests, gain special items and hunt for new runes means something like 40 or 50 hours of gameplay, really. And you’ll want to, because all this is far too addicting for its own good.
As far as the iPhone port itself is concerned, there are a number of issues that exist even in the current version. Small locations on the map are difficult, if not impossible to select, sometimes and on my 3G there is a little lag when you open certain screens (leveling up, doing things at your citadel, getting rumors) that makes pressing certain on-screen buttons infuriating. You’ll be jabbing the screen over and over, trying to put that one point in Air Mastery, only to accidentally dump all your points into when the screen finally catches up to you and then when you go to try and remove them, you’ll depress the button and watch as Puzzle Quest flounders. Navigating the map can be a pain as well, as you’ll often move to the wrong place and have to fight something you didn’t want to because you couldn’t properly select your final destination. While the fighting itself is mostly fine, selecting spells, especially spells that target specific pieces on the board introduces further frustration, because it’s unresponsive enough to bug you, but far from unplayable. Meanwhile, the graphics are somewhat unclear and muddy, and you’ll come across a number of benign graphical glitches on your quest, some of which require a restart or two to fix themselves.
My final opinion is as follows. The game itself– the concept and the intellectual property, is fascinating. It’s addictive enough that you might just alienate your friends and lovers playing it. If you’re a perfectionist like me, you’ll play 40, 50 hours just to complete all the quests and catch all the monsters. However, the responsiveness of the game will frustrate you, and you’ll wonder why they didn’t take the time to create a native iPhone version of it, one with crisp, new art, larger and more responsive buttons and touch zones, basically, something that was designed for this device, rather than an obvious port from some other device.
Buy it, play it, and review it with the hope that Puzzle Quest 2 will have more polish than its predecessor does.