Puzzle games are almost always a lot of simple fun, but sometimes that simple fun can get boring quite quickly. Thankfully there's puzzle quest, which is the combination of a simple gem combining puzzle game and an RPG featuring level progression and spells. The first game in the series was a hit, proving the addicting crossbreed to work with the two game elements. Now Puzzle Quest 2 is here, offering an expansion past the original with an improved level system, and new story to go through and get hooked on again.
Initially the puzzle mechanics seem rather similar to the original. The objective, as in the previous game, is to take turns moving coloured gems on a board in order to match up three or more in a row. Each colour attributes to a certain type of magic which allows the player to cast different spells that can affect the outcome of the battle. Players must also be sure to not miss out on any massive combos, as these are the key to victory, since enemies can trip them on their turn. The puzzles are simplistic on the surface but still manage to have a massive depth, which makes for some very addictive gameplay.
A massive overhaul to the RPG mechanics of the game has changed the way the game is played in comparison to the original. Players can now use a weapon system rather than just relying on spells and skull combos. Equipping characters with shields and swords to inflict extra damage or defend from it makes the RPG part of the game start to come to life a little more than the previous title did. although it's still perhaps a little bare.
One thing that helps change up the frequent puzzles is different objective based puzzles which go beyond that of the standard battle puzzles. There are now treasure chest puzzles which appear on a board that slowly shortens. In this mode players can also try for rare items or door puzzles, but players only have a limited amount of turns to open these. All of the variety stops the puzzles from becoming monotonous.
One thing that does become a little repetitive at times are the visuals. Levels vary by quite a bit and everything is all well designed with drawn art for mostly everything, but there just isn't enough variety. A lot of monster types repeat frequently through different dungeons, and there are very few pictures to illustrate the characters and monsters. It's a bit of a gripe with the game, though it's understandable considering most of the time is spent looking at the puzzle board trying to figure out the next move.
The audio also offers little remedy to the repetition, with a music track that doesn't feel all too inspired. Think generic fantasy music loops and that is essentially the music library for Puzzle Quest 2. Of course there is one bonus to the audio which is voice acting from the characters. Before getting too swept up though, the voices are minimal, with pretty stale delivery from most characters. There is also only about one or two lines for each character, so speech isn't fully descriptive and you'll have to rely on some reading to really follow what's happening.
In terms of actually following the story, it's not a daunting task. The story is a pretty generic fantasy tale of a lone hero who saves a village and begins to uncover the secrets of a tower that lies on the outskirts of the village. The story is not too great, but the way the quests are laid out keeps the game moving along with at least a sense of doing something more than just matching three coloured gems over and over again.
The game itself will also grant endless hours of playtime to anybody who wants to just play some puzzles. Depending on how many battles are fought, as well as how many times some battles are repeated, the story can last anywhere between eight to twenty hours, though leaning toward the later if you're really playing the game thoroughly. The difficulty also ranges depending on the level of the player and the character being fought. One thing that can be seen as either handy or annoying though is that there is no penalty for losing any battles. If a fight is lost, players go back to the map, retaining all the experience gained, and can go right back to fighting the same enemy. This is more beneficial than bothersome, but players looking for a more hardcore challenge may be put off by the lack of challenge here.
When looking at Puzzle Quest 2 on face value, it's a really solid puzzle game. However, the story and visuals are a little lacking in some aspects, and the RPG elements are still lacking any real depth. Bearing that in mind, if you're looking for more RPG than puzzle game, you may want to venture into other territory, but taken solely as a puzzle game, it still has quite a lot to offer.