Wii

North America

Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords

by David Trammell - December 28, 2007, 11:36 am PST
Total comments: 3

6

Good game, not so good port.

Puzzle Quest is an incredibly unusual game. It features elements from a turn based puzzler, extensive RPG style customization, excellent art and music, and a rather detailed (though not very original) storyline. However, not all is well in the land of Puzzle Quest. During battles, random elements sometimes have more impact than strategy. Even so, the game can be fun and addicting, as long as the Wii version's deficiencies don't scare you off.

The Wii version of Puzzle Quest looks and sounds similar to the Xbox 360 version from which it was ported, except that everything was downgraded. All of the graphics appear a little bit smaller and blurrier in the Wii version, and a lot of the game's text was very small to begin with. On the Wii there are times when the text is so small that it's not completely legible.

The game's music is very well composed, but the Wii port suffers here as well. Listening to the two versions side-by-side, the music sounds small and grainy compared to the Xbox 360 version. Additionally, music doesn't end properly in the Wii version. Instead of a quick fade, the music is sharply cut off, creating a jarring transition to the next track.

Worst of all are the control schemes. The default scheme uses the Wii Remote by itself, and the second option uses the remote and nunchuk in an attempt to simulate an ordinary controller. Frustratingly, you're not allowed to use the second scheme until playing through some tutorials, and even then you have to go back to the title screen to make the switch. Turning the Wii Remote sideways would have been a far more comfortable and sensible idea, even though it would have required using the A button as a sort of "shift" key for accessing spells and inventory. The Classic Controller and the GameCube controller would have been great options as well, but neither was included.

The default controls might have been worthwhile were it not for the sloppy implementation. Rather than moving smoothly across the screen, the pointer snaps to a fine grid. This is a cheap way of smoothing out the input of a shaky pointing device, and it comes with serious drawbacks. When you're holding the pointer steady, you have no way of knowing whether or not the tiniest twitch will move the pointer to another grid point, and many menu elements only match with a single coordinate. Consequently, selecting the wrong menu option or puzzle piece is a common occurrence.

The second scheme uses the nunchuk and remote together with pointing disabled. There's so much wrong with this control scheme that I could teach a college level course on the subject. The button assignments are practically random. The D-pad is used to manipulate the puzzle pieces during combat, but the essential help function is assigned to the 2 button--the 1 button is unassigned mind you. Going from the D-pad to the 2 button is a stretch even for my freakishly large hand. The analog stick might have been a comfortable alternative to the D-pad for moving the puzzle pieces, but the analog stick does nothing during combat in the Wii version (even though it duplicates the D-pad in the 360 version). On the 360, the L and R buttons are used to access spell menus in combat and to flip the pages of your status screen. A sensible alternative for the Wii's nunchuk and remote would have been Z and B. Instead, Z and C were used, which isn't very intuitive since they're both on the same half of the controller. It's almost as if no one tested the game before it went gold. In the end it's hard for me to decide which of the Wii control schemes I hate more; the 360 version's ordinary controls are far superior to either.

Puzzle Quest's gameplay is its only redeeming quality on the Wii. The core gameplay involves manipulating a board of jewels with jewel-matching mechanics that are identical to the flash game, Bejeweled. However, the gameplay is entirely different due to the added context. Instead of simply earning points, the jewels represent resources that you must harness to defeat your opponent. Matching skulls causes direct damage, while colored gems fuel your corresponding mana supplies for the purpose of casting spells. Spells have a variety of uses, and winning without them is not feasible. There is a lot of strategy involved in controlling the board so that you can stay alive long enough to kill your opponent. The combat strategy required, combined with the RPG character development system, makes the game quite addictive.

The only major blemish on the gameplay is the element of randomness. You might carefully limit an opponent's access to a particular color of mana for several turns only to have a wild-card appear at an inopportune spot and fill their meter up in a single turn. It's also relatively common for someone to make a simple move that, because of newly appearing pieces, inadvertently starts a massive chain combo. Considered fights can take up so much time that for weaker opponents it's often quicker to win with thoughtless moves. On a good note, how big of a factor randomness plays depends on the character class you choose and your playing style. For example, some classes have spells that control resources, which cuts down on the effects of randomness. Additionally, since you can tell where the new game pieces will appear, you have some control over when and where randomness will be applied.

Puzzle Quest isn't a bad game, but the Wii version tries very hard to make it so. It's playable as long as you don't mind squinting at the text, don't find the control scheme too uncomfortable, and don't pay much attention to music. That's not very reassuring, is it? I should also mention that despite the budget price, the Wii version is still the most expensive available. If you somehow own a Wii and don't have a 360, PC, PS2, PSP or DS, then this version may be worth considering.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
6 6 4 8 7 6
Graphics
6

The artwork is excellent, but the quick and dirty porting process doesn't do it justice. In particular, details in the artwork are noticeably degraded from the 360 version--more than expected, even considering Wii's lower resolution.

Sound
6

Like the art, the music features excellent composition but suffers for technical reasons. It may be that only well trained ears will notice and care, but the problems are there.

Control
4

The remote and nunchuk controls could have been fine, but careless button mapping makes things rather painful. The remote-only controls are similarly annoying. Despite everything, the game is still playable since it's turn-based; it's just not very comfortable.

Gameplay
8

While addictive doesn't always mean good, Puzzle Quest is pretty good. Sometimes fights seem to drag on too long, but when a fight ends you'll frequently find yourself starting another one regardless.

Lastability
7

The game is very long to begin with, and the multiple character classes and development choices will keep things fresh for those interested in playing through the game more than once. Unfortunately, online multiplayer isn't an option in the Wii version.

Final
6

This version of Puzzle Quest is a good game that's significantly marred by a careless conversion. If the Wii release is your only option, then you might be forgiven for considering it.

Summary

Pros
  • Good musical composition and art
  • Lengthy
  • Unique and addictive blend of puzzle, strategy, and RPG gameplay
Cons
  • Blurry text and graphics
  • Grainy audio
  • Really bad control schemes
Review Page 2: Conclusion

Talkback

shammackDecember 28, 2007

The badness of this port really angers me. I can't believe they managed to screw up such a simple game so badly.

RizeDavid Trammell, Staff AlumnusDecember 28, 2007

The control is the biggest problem. It simply could have been done so much better. I'll reiterate that the game is still playable on the Wii, and it's an interesting game (though it could easily be overshadowed by "real" games).

Flames_of_chaosLukasz Balicki, Staff AlumnusDecember 28, 2007

I still think the DS and the 360 versions are the best those are the two versions I own. I think its retarded that they left out online features out of the Wii version.

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Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords Box Art

Genre RPG
Developer Vicious Cycle
Controllers

Worldwide Releases

na: Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords
Release Nov 29, 2007
PublisherD3Publisher
RatingEveryone 10+
eu: Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords
Release Feb 08, 2008
PublisherD3Publisher
Rating3+
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