Connect Four WAR: Puzzle Quest 2

By Quintin Smith on August 10th, 2010 at 7:33 pm.

Quinine is a bitter flavouring with painkilling properties used in tonic water and Irn-Bru. No word of a lie, tonic water glows like a lamp under an ultra-violet light because of the quinine.

Remember 2007′s mutant-evolution-of-bejeweled Puzzle Quest? The sequel, Puzzle Quest 2 (no subtitle here, but feel free to invent your own in the comments), hits Steam this Friday. I’ve got my hands on it early, and I’ve spent the last couple of hours matching my way to victory over various goblins and ne’er-do-wells. Ooh, it’s good. How good? Read my impressions after the jump.

Again, phrases like “Hopelessly moreish” don’t come close to describing what’s on offer here. The first game’s combination of Bejeweled’s puzzle-gambling and an RPG’s character development was devastating enough already, and the sequel adds all kinds of minigames and a richness to the RPG elements. Playing Puzzle Quest 2 is like having an invisible man stood behind you, a man who starts jabbing you with a club if you turn away from the screen. But how can you fight a man you cannot see? You cannot. No-one can fight that man.

In case you didn’t play the first, combat works like this: You go waddling up to a swarm of rats, or a troll, or a skelington or whatever, and as the battle starts you’re presented with a grid of various things. Matching gems earns you various colours of mana, matching skulls deals damage to your opponent, and (in the sequel) matching gauntlets gives you points you can spend on using the arms you’ve equipped in your hands. Match 4 or more of something and you get an extra go, but that’s small beer compared to the cascades of matches and points and damage and EXCITEMENT you can orchestrate if you’re clever, or lucky.

The sequel actually starts slowly, but once you’re given free reign to accept side quests or go wandering off and get your ass kicked then this man with the club materialises. The tension of PQ2′s combat emerges when you start facing down tough opponents, as does this obsession with improving your character, and the new isometric viewpoint comes into its own when you start exploring the game’s dungeon.

Now I’ve got to the stage where I don’t trust myself to dip in to take a screenshot, because I know I won’t emerge for 25 minutes.

I’m not exaggerating there. The above screenshot took at least 20 minutes, because I decided I wanted a shot of the dungeon with my Assassin facing the camera. That meant defeating a particularly tough swarm of rats, which took two very long tries.

The only reason I’m not recommending you all run off to pre-order it right away is because it’s so addictive and so lightweight that I find it enormously annoying how easily I can lose an hour to it. But then, that’s the same problem I have with tower defense games, so I’m aware I’m in the minority here. I’ll just let you make your own mind up.

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44 Comments »

  1. Matthew Minix says:

    I’ve been playing the xbo360 version for about a week. I like it, but not as much as the first, and I’ve spent upwards of 30 minutes twice trying to find a multiplayer game. The character progression seems slower, and I feel like the spells aren’t varied enough. I have the same strategy (through 25 levels) fighting anything. It’s still fun, but I’ve found very little i like more than the first game.

    • PHeMoX says:

      Yeah, this does look like more of the same stuff in a pretty literal sense, although the first game felt more balanced.

      I do like how they’ve stretched the concept of a Bejeweled-like game though. Reminds me of other cool games that stick with their relatively simple gameplay and let it evolve a step or two up from its original roots.

  2. Daave says:

    Recently replayed the first game with a different class and it really did eat days of my time. Aquiring the best gear and doing all the side quests was very absorbing, not to mention capturing wild beasties, learning new spells, crafting your own armour and taming a scorpion!

    Looking forward to this muchly.

  3. Jimbo says:

    I would play ‘The Goblin Boss: Find the Goblin Boss’. In fact, I’m playing it right now.

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      The Goblin Boss II: Return the Goblin Boss.

    • westyfield says:

      The Goblin Boss uses Steamworks, which eliminates the second hand market entirely. You can’t return it. I’m sorry.

  4. Clovis says:

    I can’t really see getting this on Steam\PC instead of a DS or fancy Phone or something.

    • qrter says:

      I’ve been playing the DS version, it’s a lot of fun, and I agree – if you have the choice, go with the portable version (presuming it’s basically the same as the PC version).

      Tom Chick thought the enemy AI was ridiculously bad – casting spells not because they’re useful, but because the enemy has enough mana to do so. Personally, I never really play Puzzle Quest games for the pure strategy, so it didn’t bother me.

    • Shih Tzu says:

      Why not get them all?

    • MWoody says:

      The DS version was widely criticized for very poor graphics, UI, and overall presentation. Some went so far as to point out it looks like a poor port of a console or PC game, which is particularly strange given that the portable version came first.

    • qrter says:

      Strange, it’s not as if Puzzle Quest games are known for their wonderful graphics.

    • Risingson says:

      I agree with the DS version being the best of them all. Really, the DS is oriented to that kind of games, and it shows when playing Puzzle Quest. Or Puzzle Quest 2.

  5. Elusiv3Pastry says:

    I bought the first for my iPhone for when I travel for work, and I’m rather bored by it. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of skill required; look for two or three dots of the same color and line them up. Zzzzz.

  6. Grundlewart says:

    Anyone know how much this will cost me? In terms of currency, mind you, as I already expect a pitifully high cost in life-hours, productivity, and self esteem.

  7. Lambchops says:

    I must complete Arkham Asylum before I start playing this – I’m pretty sure I ended up abandoning either it or Bioshock to an absolutely horrible Puzzle Quest addiction when it game out. My only saving grace was that I managed to addict my housemate so I felt slightly less bad about it!

  8. erik says:

    free rein

  9. qrter says:

    Enjoyed this on the DS, I’m guessing the PC version is basically the same?

    One aspect I did find a tad disappointing – the game switching to the town-with-dungeon-levels-below-it model.

  10. The Great Wayne says:

    Played the first one on PSP a lot. Too bad the sequel ain’t coming on the platform. Well, PC will have to do, I guess.

  11. geldonyetich says:

    Bigger point for me: if I’ve yet to finish Puzzle Quest 1 (and, indeed, I’ve yet to) is there any reason I should rush out and buy Puzzle Quest 2?

  12. goatmonkey says:

    I am tempted but this is more than I have paid for a game in months the steam sale has made anything more than £5 seem extortionate

    • PHeMoX says:

      When you look closely at Steam, anything above about 30 bucks ís exorbitantly high prices considering the fun you can have and hours spend on the cheaper games or discounted ones.

      There’s really no way Steam can convince me to jump on new games as quickly as I used to do back when prices were much more acceptable.

  13. Fazer says:

    I played the first a lot. It was good at the start, even addicting, but the more I played, the more repetitive it became. My character was getting stronger, but my enemies too, so I felt like I was standing in the same place, with no progression. I eventually abandoned it.

    I’m curious how much PQ2 differs from PQ1…

  14. Trelow says:

    New art direction. Me likey.

  15. MWoody says:

    That “rat swarm” text blurb is an excellent example of why you always need to include a comma before the “and” or “or” in a series.

  16. roBurky says:

    I got the iPhone version of the first when it was put up for free. The main game story was so annoying and awful that I just did the endless random battles option instead.

    Would I likely end up doing the same with this, or is the stuff around the battles not as boring / cringeworthy?

    • Arathain says:

      @roBurky: Regarding the first game, doing random battles would have been a little pointless for me. What I enjoyed about PQ1 was all the stuff they built around the main battle puzzle, as fun as that was. While the story was generic as it comes (although the main character consistently had some pretty good lightly sarcastic lines that I enjoyed) it was all the different stuff you could do on the world map to trick out your character that made it for me. I liked taming exotic mounts to ride, because who doesn’t like their Paladin to ride a giant scorpion? I liked fighting the Rune bosses and crafting stuff. I liked capturing monsters and learning their skills. I liked putting together a nice, powerful build of skills and items. My wife played a good bit more than I did, and I liked helping her with her build about as much as I enjoyed playing myself.

      For a game that frequently found itself under the casual label it had a lot to do and a lot of depth.

      Despite all the attempts to steal the crown from PQ1 (Kingdoms, Galactrix, Chronicles) the original is still by far the best, with only Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes on the DS putting in a serious challenge (MaM:CoH is really good, by the way). I’m very curious about this.

  17. Malawi Frontier Guard says:

    Is this still part of the Warlords series, like the previous one?

    I care very much about the integrity of the lore.

  18. Akimbo says:

    Quinine

  19. Scandalon says:

    Puzzle Que2t: The Puzzling Quest for Jewels

  20. Malagate says:

    Quinns, did you only know what Quinine meant because you first chose a female-ish form of your name and then googled it just to find out if it meant anything? Or are you just knowledgeable about tonic water?

    I only ask because I used to have to do that for an old MUD (not know about tonic water, make a RP name and google it). My favourite was making a gnome and managing to get through the name “Tekoki”. Do not google that name at work, very foreign words are the best for getting something inappropriate through.

  21. Schaulustiger says:

    I bought the first Puzzle Quest for three platforms (PC, PSP and Symbian OS) and completed it on every single one at least once.

    Funnily, I first purchased it for my old Nokia dumbphone. That version beared almost no resemblance to the PC/PSP ones, having a new storyline, less minigames and no city “management” part. But I played that version like an addict for weeks. It had a great bug that only a handful people will have encountered: If you stopped doing the main questline and just do random fights for a veeeery long time, the game eventually broke and enemies wouldn’t fight back. I would then be forced to start again with a new character and did so about, I don’t know, 5 or 6 times.
    Gosh, I must have spent at least 150 hours with that version. On aphone. With a tiny 320×240 screen. What is wrong with me?

  22. Internetguy says:

    Does the AI still cheat like it did in PQ1? If so, it can go get fucked. If not, well, I probably still won’t pick it up.

  23. Gothnak says:

    See, PQ2 is soooo much better than PQ1 in many ways… But there is ONE way where it is worse… And that is the fact that you don’t find items with powerful abilities on them.. .Well, i haven’t yet, and i’m level 30 or so. I’m playing an assassin and every X levels you get a new ability. And apart from that the items raise armour, allow you to spend action points to do damage or gain mana and so for that’s it.

    This means my unique, finely crafted (And albeit rather unbalanced, but that was part of the fun) combos of PQ1 are impossible. If you have the Assassin, you will play like this and no other way at all!

    Therefore with the cool quests, lock picking, treasure hunting, better story etc, the actual fights just aren’t as good and this makes me sad :(…

  24. Soapeh says:

    There’s an amusing achievement called ‘Cheating AI’: Be defeated by an opponent on their first turn during single player quest mode

  25. Kamran says:

    Here’s the thing. PQ2 is much better than that crap Galactrix but there’s some issues. Like others have said, it takes a few battles to develop a one-size-fits-all strategy (Assassin Stealth + Strikes anybody?). Also the purple and blue gems look pretty much the same, enough to make me look twice or thrice each time I look over the board. It trips me up enough times.

    Third, why the HELL are the mini-games so tiny?! And the treasure hunt on the DS is much easier to look over than the 360 version. In fact, the DS version is better than the 360 version in terms of usability. You can check out your inventory when you find items from quests (in the 360 version you don’t get to look at what you have; you have to decide right there).

    It’s little things like that that just irritate me and don’t entice me to play. If they fixed the color issues and the usability issues that’d be nice.

    Overall the game is fun but I think I prefer the overworld to the dungeon crawling (in the literal sense… it takes forever if you fight everyone and you pretty much have to fight everyone). I love the upgrade system and the shops though, that was a good addition.

  26. Moonracer says:

    The original game was lots of OCD fun for me. Galactrix crashed too much and the forced time limit warp gates destroyed the “casual” fun. I will probably wait a bit before getting a copy but am excited.