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Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords

Puzzle games are a genre that rarely gets any respect from gamers who consider themselves hardcore, and even less respect is earned from role playing gamers that prefer epic stories pitting good against evil, with spells, battles and companions marching into battle with you. Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords not only takes a page directly out of the Bejeweled book on how to create a gem matching game, but they weave in a story and collection based gameplay which will keep you anxious to play just one more match endlessly.

Iíve enjoyed this game on three platforms; PC, Xbox Live Arcade and now on the Wii. In each version, the game is identical, but that really doesnít matter as I was altering the gameplay based on the character class I selected. Choosing a druid allows for magical attacks along with a basic command of physical combat. Alternatively a warrior is based strongly around his skill in battle. The word battle is used slightly different however than a traditional RPG. As you interact with the characters in the game, you unlock quests which amount to moving across a world map and engaging creatures along the way. The battle consists of a screen filled with gems, purple stars, coins and skulls. Simply match three or more of these gems together to clear them from the screen, which allows them to promptly be replaced with more random items. You and your opponent are allocated an amount of hit points which are diminished when one or the other matches skulls to attack, or casts one of the games many spells that are available. Simply be the last one standing with hit points and you win the match. Along with gold and experience, you advance the plot forward taking on hoards of evil minions.

While progressing through the story mode, you earn the ability to purchase parts for a citadel which you can then use to train mounts, capture enemies, learn spells, or create new weapons and armor using the runes you collect when not pursuing the main story mode. As take advantage of the citadel, you have to solve a mini game that requires removal of all gems from a game screen or matching a set number of special items based on the difficulty of the spell / item you are looking to create. This is an excellent way to get more experience and unlock stronger spells to aid in advancing the plot of the game.

Puzzle Quest has a very simplistic design thanks to its puzzle roots, and this is carried over to the still frame story exposition that takes place as you move through the title. The simplicity of the game is part of its beauty as you can easily get consumed by the addictive gameplay and the no frills charm of the title. Although itís simple in design, there are some bells and whistles that are included as you cast spells, but donít expect a giant three dimensional display when you cast a fire spell. That type of graphical finesse is not included in this title. Multiplayer is included in the game, but limited to local play only. Donít expect to be able to take your high ranked hero online and bust some skulls.

The game, while very fun and extremely addicting, does have one major flaw in its Wii release. Quite frankly I canít get over how poorly designed the controls are for the title. Within a couple minutes of playing the game, the default Wiimote control scheme quickly becomes a problem. The sensitivity of the pointer combined with the close proximity of the gems makes errors in your gem matching a very big possibility. Unless you have the Wiimote hooked up to a gyroscope to keep it perfectly still, the almost as poorly designed, alternate nunchuck control scheme might work for you. However, you cannot use the thumb stick to select your gems or manipulate them. You have to use the D-pad on the Wiimote as the nunchuck is only used for the C and Z button. This configuration was actually even more uncomfortable than it was cumbersome to use; hand cramps were almost immediate. Oddly enough the game doesnít feature any other easier methods of control like the classic controller or even just the D-pad and the 1 & 2 buttons. This shoddy control scheme is inexcusable and severely degrades the enjoyment of this title on the Wii.

If youíve played the game in any of its other iterations, be advised to stay away from this title. Sure you may think it would be fun to play it on the big TV instead of your DS or PC, but the carpel tunnel inducing controls will make you wish for your thankfully discounted price back. If you have the means to play this in one of its other forms, I highly recommend this title as a good pick up and play game Ė but just not on the Wii. Skip it.