Puzzle Quest 2

After a disappointing foray into science fiction with Puzzle Quest: Galactrix, Infinite Interactive is back to combining Dungeons & Dragons trappings with games of Bejeweled. But while Puzzle Quest 2 provides a deep dungeon-delve, it leaves the plot behind.

Players spend most of their time helping a monster-plagued town by venturing into a multilayered citadel. There are plenty of side quests available as you match-three your way through battles with orcs, goblins, undead, and potent bosses like a rakshasa and a gelatinous cube.

Battles have been spiced up via the addition of weapons that can be activated through a new type of tile. The idea is to speed up combats by providing another mechanism for dealing damage, but many weapons require a huge reservoir of action points to activate. Cool-downs on spells also make things trickier, putting an end to Puzzle Quest: Challenge Of The Warlords’ common practice of crafting combos that could prevent an enemy from ever acting again. Besides forcing players to think harder about what spells to use, Quest 2 also keeps multiplayer matches from becoming a race to see who can stun the other player first.

Getting through the dungeon involves plenty of fights, but also disabling traps, picking locks, kicking down doors, and searching rooms for hidden loot or pitfalls. Each challenge has its own mini-game, all of which are different takes on Bejeweled, but offer a refreshing change of pace. All four character classes are on even ground for these games, which feels like a missed opportunity to give the barbarian a leg up on feats of strength, or the assassin improved chances at opening doors.

The game is just as addictive as the original Puzzle Quest, and it’s easy to get caught up in the action when there’s always another puzzle or fight ahead. But it’s much harder to care about the purpose of your quest, as your hero has no real stake in the world. While the protagonist of Challenge Of The Warlords was integrated into the setting through dialogue with family and friends, the hero in Puzzle Quest 2 is silent and anonymous. There are some amusing NPCs along the way, but the companions who join your party provide little more than spell options. Just a bit more fluff would have gone a long way toward padding this hack-and-slash adventure.