Match-3 has always been one of our favorite genres of puzzle games. They’re so simple and accessible that anyone can get hooked on them, but we also enjoy seeing what kind of twists developers can put on exploding gems. Heroes of Kalevala, for example, added city building, and Tinseltown Dreams less successfully added a movie-making minigame. Puzzle Quest 2 on the iPad, however, looks like it will really shake things up.
The original Puzzle Quest had experience points, spells, and lots of tough enemies to fight against in Match-3 battles, but Puzzle Quest 2 puts a real emphasis on the ‘quest’ part of the title. Instead of a bland overworld map, PQ2 takes you down to street level as you move your character through towns or dungeons. You can follow a glowing question mark to lead you to the next mission checkpoint, or divert from the main path to find side quests, hidden treasure, and minibosses.
Unlike before, you don’t have to worry about matching tiles for gold and experience. Now, those are gained automatically at the end of each fight, but you do have a new tile to worry about: Iron gauntlets let you perform action moves with items that you equip before each fight.
For example, our female barbarian (named ‘Connie’) has a two-handed specialty, so matching and casting seven gauntlet tiles lets her strike with a goblin-bashing spiked club. You can also equip potions and shields for active casting as well.
Puzzle Quest 2 also has a drop-dead gorgeous art style that we think stands out on the iPad. Each enemy has a large, detailed image that appears when you challenge them, and you can really see the nastiness in each spike, tooth, tuft of fur, or evil eye.
The battles are wonderfully varied, too. Each enemy has a different set of spells, and they’ll play to win. If you die, you can restart from the same room with no penalty. Some battles even change up the board, like a polar bear battle that nearly doubled the size of the playing field, and added some tough-to-reach skull icons as well.
In addition to the fights, there are minigames for events like dousing fires, picking locks, and looting chests. Though they’re all just twists on Match-3, it’s a surprisingly interesting way to explore the environment and level up your character.
Since this is a preview build, we didn’t get to spend any time with Puzzle Quest 2′s online features, which use Namco’s Unite service. Also, the game did bug out at one point, forcing us to restart a fight because we couldn’t click anywhere on the board. We’re hopeful the game will be largely bug-free and fully online when it launches in November, and when it does, we’d highly encourage just about any puzzle-minded adventurer to snatch it up.