Puzzle Quest

Review: I challenge thee to a fight to the death! With coloured balls!

This one can be our little secret, readers. Your average punter won't give Puzzle Quest a second glance: all that GCSE-level artwork, enough coloured balls to fill an Ikea crèche - it looks rubbish.

But we can chuckle into our sleeves at those poor fools, and enjoy one of the most strangely satisfying puzzlers since Petals Around The Rose.

If you missed it on DS, Puzzle Quest is a puzzle game and an RPG. You engage in takey-turney battles, casting spells, buying weapons and levelling up your mage or warrior or whatever, just like in a traditional RPG.


But the 'battles' are competitive rounds of ball-matching puzzling in the vein of Bejeweled and Zoo Keeper.

It is, clearly, a very silly idea. And there's something about the po-faced medieval trappings of Puzzle Quest that really gives us the giggles.

But - honestly - it works. The puzzling's great: you deal damage by linking up rows of skulls, and the balance of skill and luck - along with the massive combos you can rack up as the grid refills - makes it feel like a proper hard-fought scrap.

More than that, the depth is astonishing. Linking up coloured balls builds power for spells; matching coins earns cash for ability-enhancing items; you can 'fight' to conquer cities then build workshops to research new items... there's so much going on.

Spherical doom

So why the lowish score? Partly because DS has spoiled us rotten. Like many a tile-sliding puzzler, Puzzle Quest was tailor-made for the double-screener's press-and-drag stylus control. The Wii remote is miles better than a traditional joypad - but it's fiddlier than DS.

Plus, this version's less 'flip-closey-openey', if you get our meaning. PQ's later battles are long, hard, tactical slogs, and we need DS's power to stop now and come back later with a simple lid-snap. We've tried folding our TV in half but it just doesn't work.

The real problem, though, is that the text is bloody tiny - those fancypants millionaire developers at Infinite must surely all have HD tellies the size of small cornfields.

This is bad because, unless you've got a photographic memory for spell descriptions, you've really gotta read those spell descriptions.

And choosing between the teensy menu options is tough work - zeroing in on what you want is like trying to paint a moustache on a flea's face with a human hair.

In short: if you've got a DS, get the DS version. If not, get this. Either way, you have to make sure you play Puzzle Quest. And remember: it's our secret. Don't tell the fools!

The verdict

One of those surprising little gems you'll be glad you found. But it's not quite as easy to play as the DS version, so this one's best appreciated by gamers without a two-screen machine.

Nintendo DS
Puzzle, RPG