Remember when puzzle games were nice, sedate affairs? A gentle afternoon in the company of some disappearing gems, or carefully placed tiles? How it’s all changed since Puzzle Quest, eh? Now puzzle games are about COMBAT! As is the case with Konami’s imaginatively named Puzzle Chronicles. It’s by Infinite Interactive, they who brought us Puzzle Quest and Galactrix, which is immediately obvious when you start playing the demo: lots of effort has gone into it. It’s what makes their games stand out from the vast numbers of lazy copycats. However, I’m not completely convinced this one is going to engage quite as much.
The puzzle element is a gem-matching deal. Groups of three fall, and you block together those of the same colour, then destroy them by dropping the appropriately coloured destroying gem. Then of course there’s fifty squillion other types of bonus drop to implement, including the requisite skull gems that allow you to do damage to your AI opponent. Here your attacks mean you reduce your enemy’s play area as you increase your own.
The problem is, it’s feels like a clumsy interface. First of all the blocks fall sideways, which is confusing enough. Then you can grab them with the mouse and move them around, or turn them. But unlike most blocks-of-three puzzlers, you can’t rotate the order of the gems, and it desperately feels like you should be able to. Moving them feels oddly clunky, and the delay before the next piece appears is infuriating. There’s none of the fabulous match-3 action pace of Puzzle Quest.
The story around it is cute. You’re a barbarian, quickly accompanied by a warbeast cat-dog thing. They give you bonus attacks as well, of course. Then there’s weapons, skills, and so on that quickly elaborate. It’s once again truly an RPG puzzler, in the way the copycats can’t manage. The animated sequences are fun, with some decent voice acting, and there’s villages to explore, quests to solve, all of course in the form of playing the puzzle game.
Perhaps I’ll be more convinced as I play more, get more used to the nature of the puzzle. But I’m pretty certain it won’t match Puzzle Quest’s fluid Zoo Keeper/Bejeweled majesty.