Puzzle Quest

Jason Cook

You can spend 20 minutes every few days playing Puzzle Quest, or you can pour hundreds of hours into making your character a powerhouse.

Publisher: D3
Genres: Puzzle, RPG
Subtitle: Challenge of the Warlords
Display Artist: Vicious Cycle / Infinite
Price: $29.99
Multimedia: Puzzle Quest
Platforms: Wii (Reviewed), Nintendo DS, PlayStation Portable, Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, PC, Wireless
Number of players: 1-2
ESRB rating: Everyone 10+
Developer: Infinite
US release date: 2007-12-04
Amazon UK affiliate
Amazon affiliate
Developer website

Genre crossovers are nothing new in the world of gaming. Action/role playing, first-person/adventure and action/platformer are just some of the common combinations developers have used to create unique titles.

Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords is one of the most successful marriages of two different gaming styles available. Its blending of traditional role-playing and addictive puzzling makes for a game that is fun, unique and appeals to an amazingly vast audience.

Puzzle Quest takes place in a fantasy realm and allows the player to choose a character from four different classes (Knight, Wizard, Druid, and Warrior). Beyond that, the story is almost totally forgettable, told with "cut scenes" featuring still pictures of the player's character using comic book text bubbles. Players are tasked with fetch quests, hunting monsters, rescuing innocents and searching for treasure -- all stock fantasy fare. Luckily for Puzzle Quest, the story is of no consequence, as it just serves to move the player from battle to joyous battle.

Combat in Puzzle Quest is where the "puzzle" in the title comes from. Each battle takes place on a Bejeweled-like grid of gems. Gems come in five different types: red/blue/green/yellow mana gems, stars, coins, numbered blocks, and skulls. By lining up three or more of the same type of gem, an effect is generated. Skulls hit enemies directly, colored mana adds to your mana reserves and is used for spell casting, numbered blocks are wild cards used to increase mana haul, and stars grant extra experience. Those familiar with Bejeweled or similar titles will feel right at home.

The combat is addictive, fun, highly strategic and rewarding. Spells come in an array of varieties, ranging from straight-up damaging fireballs to more subtle elemental mana-fixing. Some battles can take upwards of 15 minutes and two fights rarely play out the same. The degree of difficulty is also nearly perfect. Battles can be tough, but with thought and planning, even high-level enemies can be taken down. There is also no need to "grind" -- the dreaded role-playing practice of walking around and leveling up to beat tougher enemies -- in Puzzle Quest.

Since Puzzle Quest is available on a number of platforms, it bears mentioning that the Wii version added a control scheme available with the system's unique remote. Unfortunately, it did so to spectacular failure. The game allows the player to use the remote by itself to shift gems, move the character along the world map and, well, everything else. Within the gem grid (the most important aspect of the game) pointing and clicking to shift gem positions is an inexact, headache-causing chore. Penalties come within the game for illegal moves (trying to align two red gems with a green, for example) to make the player think about their next play. You would need the hands of a surgeon to be able to play a mistake-free battle the way this pointer jumps. I made at least three mistakes per fight that were clearly controller error before switching to the nunchuk-style control scheme.

This alternate style is much better control-wise, but poorly mapped buttons and an unnatural feel take away from it. Why am I using the nunchuk when I don't ever have to control my character's movement? At least with this control scheme the remote's directional pad is used to shift gems, cutting mistakes to zero. Flipping the controller horizontal would have been a lot more intuitive.

Other problems arise with the Wii port of Puzzle Quest. The text on screen is unforgivably small, simultaneously eliminating any interest in the story and making buying items a lesson in squinting. With certain backgrounds, the text is completely unreadable. The music also skips and cuts in and out during battles, something that is jarring during game play and shows laziness on the part of those responsible for the port.

Graphically, Puzzle Quest is underwhelming at best. There is very little animation in the title, evidenced by the fact that your character is nothing more than a picture, and spells aren't much more than glorified lightning bolts. Enemy picture cards do look cool, so there's that.

For all the technical problems, though, Puzzle Quest does a whole mess of things right. Enforcing the Wii's commitment to casual gaming, the title can be as deep or shallow as the player wants. There are hundreds of side quests that can be used to beef up characters or sate players' troll bloodlust, but which have no bearing on the "story" or beating the game. Similarly, the Citadel (a hub for learning new skills, training mounts and forging items, among other tasks) is a hardcore player's dream, but it's also something that casual players can skip altogether and never be penalized. You can spend 20 minutes every few days playing this game, or you can pour hundreds of hours into making your character a powerhouse.

At $30, the Wii version of Puzzle Quest isn't as great a deal as the Xbox Live Arcade or the superior DS version. But it is a great deal for the amount of content that's there. Anyone with even the slightest interest in puzzle games and/or role-playing games will find something worthwhile in Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords. Hopefully, developer Infinite Interactive will add some polish and better controls to this groundwork to produce a truly divine sequel down the road.

If you can overlook the graphics, don't mind reading a lame story and have a nice set of headphones and some music to listen to, Puzzle Quest goes from underwhelming and quirky port to a must-have. At worst, the uniqueness of this title must be admired.






The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".


Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".


Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.


Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.


The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".


Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.


Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.