Updated: Puzzle Quest 2 iPad Review

It may not have arrived as quickly as we thought, but Puzzle Quest 2′s long-awaited multiplayer update has just hit the App Store. This update also ups the resolution on Retina-compatible iPods and iPhones.

Puzzle Quest 2′s multiplayer mode, which is either local through Bluetooth and Wi-Fi or online through Game Center, is a lot of fun. You can take your hero from the single-player game and try to find opponents online, or make a random hero at either low, medium, or high levels of ability.

We did encounter a few bugs when testing out the multiplayer mode, like dropped connections and artifacts that would stay on the screen, but once we got into a full game, it was a blast. Human opponents are much craftier than even the toughest AI in Puzzle Quest 2, so we can see this mode getting a lot of use. Now, if there was only a way to make sure you always had someone to play against…

Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of Match-3 games. There are the kind where you have to rack up a high score or survive as long as possible before time runs out, like Bejeweled 2 Blitz. Then there are the kind that use Match-3 as the basis for something much deeper. Puzzle Quest 2 is a massive role-playing game where swapping gems stands in for swinging your sword.

In Puzzle Quest 2, you play as an adventurer (one of four different classes, each with their own strengths and spells) who arrives in the town of Verloren at the same time as a goblin attack. After helping the townsfolk, you’re asked to explore the nearby tower, where the attacks are originating from. Once you get inside, you’ll find a nearly endless supply of creatures to fight, side quests to follow, and mysteries to uncover.

Like a puzzle assassin.

Every enemy encounter, and a lot of other actions as well, will take you to a Match-3 board where you have to swap tiles to make matches. Fighting enemies is the most common type of Match-3 game you’ll play. Here you’ll exchange turns, matching skulls for direct damage, colored gems for magic energy, and gauntlets for action points. You’ll also play a separate game for bashing down locked doors, looting treasure chests, and unsealing magic barriers.

Each Match-3 game you play feels unique, because your character grows and changes constantly along with the enemies. You’ll learn spells and uncover loot that will open up new strategic possibilities. For example, we first played as a barbarian, and we would flood the board with red gems using one spell and break them apart to cause damage with another. Later, when we played as an assassin character, we would activate a stealth ability to absorb attacks and double the effectiveness of certain spells. The possibilities feel endless.

And that, my friends, is what progress looks like.

Because Puzzle Quest 2 is a full port of a PC and console game, nothing feels stripped down or simplified at all. You can still micromanage your inventory, utilizing every item to make you more powerful. And the touchscreen controls work beautifully– we never had a problem making a match, moving around the environments, or managing our gear.

But the most impressive thing about Puzzle Quest 2 are the production values. This is an amazing looking game, especially on the iPad. Each environment is crammed full of visual details, and the portraits of attacking enemies are frightfully lifelike. We wish that Retina support for top-of-the-line iPhones and iPods was included, but for now, the game looks best on the iPad. The music is also quite wonderful, but after a dozen hours we were wishing for the ability to stream Pandora in the background instead.

Puzzle Quest 2 is the best Match-3 game on the platform, bar none. It’s a full console game with graphics, sound design, and deep gameplay to match. You’ll be amazed at how long this journey lasts, as tempting side-quests and passageways lure you to several more hours’ of enjoyment. Namco has done an incredible job using the iPad to its fullest for Puzzle Quest 2, and we couldn’t be happier with the end result.

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