Puzzle Quest 2, successor to the fantastically addictive Puzzle Quest, recently came out for the iPhone and iPad. Can it live up to the match-three legacy of its predecessor?

If I had finished this article back when I started writing it in the beginning of February, the answer to the above question would have been a resounding, “No.” At the time, Puzzle Quest 2 was an extremely ambitious sequel to a high quality and extremely addictive puzzle game, but it suffered from tremendous performance issues that made it unplayable. At its worst, it would take several minutes to get from one puzzle/battle to the next and puzzles themselves would take 5-15 seconds per move (not counting the time it took to decide on a move, of course). This was all due to an emphasis on updated graphics and a complete disregard for efficient loading and memory use, I conjectured.

Well, none of that is true anymore. The game was patched sometime this week and literally zero of those issues are present. I played the game tonight and I was glued to my iPad just as much as I had been with the original Puzzle Quest, if not more.

Positives

+ Puzzle Quest 2 introduces tons of new puzzle styles, including opening doors, lockpicking, looting chests, and a plethora of the tried and true battles. The mix keeps things interesting, as you’re no longer just going from battle to battle while taking occasional breaks to capture enemies, learn spells, and forge weapons.

+ As far as battles go, even the timbre of combat is different given that they have turned purple stars into purple mana and they’ve removed in-battle gold matches in favor of black gauntlets that award the brand new action points. Mechanically, this maintains the balance of how many different types of pieces are out there, but now every piece on the board feels like it affects combat. No longer are you ever faced with the choice of matching experience or gold instead of gaining mana or dealing damage; every move has the potential to directly affect the outcome of battle. It sounds like a small change, but in practice it’s quite large.

+ Equipment has been revamped such that weapons are actually useable, rather than passive modifiers of other aspects of combat. You can now use the aforementioned action points to, for instance, swing your axe to deal direct damage or use a potion to gain some yellow mana. This makes for a myriad of new equipment choices when decking out your character.

+ The visuals are definitely improved. I was bitter about the graphical improvements at first because I attributed them to harsh performance issues that made the game unplayable, but now that those problems have been fixed I can appreciate the updated anime-like graphics and crisper puzzle animations.

Downsides

– Despite 95% of the pacing and lag issues having been fixed, there are still some timing issues that prevent the game from moving at the blistering speed of the original Puzzle Quest. For instance, when you use your weapon you have to wait several seconds for the animation to play out. The animation for “No more moves” and the subsequent mana drain is also a little slow. These are minor nuisances, but it’s still annoying to experience the interruptions especially when the original Puzzle Quest played like greased lightning.

– Between battles, some of the questing stuff gets repetitive and obnoxious. I’d rather not walk from place to place over and over again; Puzzle Quest never burdened me with much required exploration and I’m disappointed that the sequel focuses a bit less on the best part of the game (battles).

– I’ve been playing for a little while and I still don’t fully understand the real limits of character customization and equipment development. There’s a great deal more to Puzzle Quest 2 than the original and while it’s refreshing most of the time, it can get a little bit overwhelming especially to someone who doesn’t play the game extensively.

Conclusion

Puzzle Quest 2 was plagued with performance issues for several months, during which time I wanted to love the game but I just couldn’t because it was so unplayable. With the patch, the real strengths of Puzzle Quest 2 can really shine, including its updated graphics, its improved combat system, and a boat load of new customization options and modes of play. While there are still a few kinks to work out, with the big changes this week I would say that Puzzle Quest 2 is now a must-buy for fans of the original and anyone looking for an involving puzzle RPG that’s pleasing to look at and easy to pick up.

 

Jake purchased Puzzle Quest 2 independently. It is available now as a universal app for iPhone and iPad for $4.99 as well as for the Nintendo DS, XBox Live Arcade, and PC via Steam. Prices are accurate as of time of publishing.

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