Look, I knew I would be seeing Puzzle Quest 2 today, all day. My scheduled meeting was later in the afternoon, but leading up to that time, I became increasingly nervous about finally getting my hands on the game. You see, the first Puzzle Quest made a sizable dent in my remaining lifespan. I have given too large a portion of my existence to this videogame. And the second one was supposed to be an even more focused version of the first? Oh no.
And then I finally played it. I played it for too long. They had to run me off. Oh no.
This one's more of what you wanted the first time around
The first Puzzle Quest was just a puzzle game with some role playing sense wrapped around it. The sequel is much more like an RPG. There's real exploration that leads to real dungeon crawling experiences. There's now four heroes, each with hero-accurate class abilities. I played as an Assassin, but there are also Sorcerer, Barbarian and Templar classes to choose from. Each can now equip and use weapons and armor.
The world is roamed in a town or dungeon view, where you'll interact face to face with NPCs or beasties. The overworld map is out, and real interaction is in. You'll get into dungeons with multiple levels, and in there you'll encounter beasts that you'll have to fight with. I was even told about room-filling bosses that you'll eventually encounter. You'll take all enemies on with...
More of the same match 3 puzzle game play
I'm glad all of that multi-directional space stuff is out. Good ol' match 3 is back in, and it's better than ever. While you're still swapping out two gems to make rows of 3 or more, you're doing it in new ways with new pieces. For example, the new gauntlet fist gems earn you action points when you clear 3 or more. You'll use these points to activate your equipped weapon, shield or armor.
There's plenty more to do
A bunch of new alternate puzzles keep things interesting. For example, when you defeat a boss, you'll encounter a treasure chest that you'll have to "beat" in order to get the most riches. Early in the game I came across a quest that had me putting out a fire. The goal was to clear and combo as many blue gems (water) as possible to put the fire out. The red gems were to be avoided, as they would only build the flame. If you were to build up enough action points, they could be used to pour buckets of water on the fire. Other types of games will have you picking door locks and disarming traps.
I like the DS version better than the XBLA one
No, seriously. And that's not just because one is portable and the other isn't. The refined control really makes the DS version the better one. Sure, the Xbox Live Arcade version looks lovely, but the stylus-based, touchscreen version of the game makes for a more intuitive experience. Instead of hitting multiple buttons to cast a spell or use a weapon/sheild, all you need to do is tap the item icon to use it. Better yet, switching gems takes only a flick of the stylus.
They're doing what they should have done with the first game with this sequel. You're actually doing something now. Sure, you're mostly matching three in a puzzle grid, but now playing on the field in a real dungeon crawler experience, complete with a robust item/weapon system and 4 character classes that you can level and tailor to your heart's content. I always loved the idea of a puzzle RPG, and now it looks like we finally have one.
Puzzle Quest 2 will be released on the Nintendo DS and Xbox Live Arcade this spring.