Puzzle your way to epic loot
I think RPGamer is lucky enough to be among the first people to get a real good look and hands on with the latest evolution of the Puzzle Quest formula, Puzzle Chronicles. I personally got to try out early builds of the Xbox 360 and Nintendo DS versions. Like Macstorm mentioned in his impression, Puzzle Chronicles is an easy-to-learn, difficult-to-master puzzle game at its core, surrounded by a rather large fantasy world. The fantasy world and story in particular have been greatly expanded here with various cutscenes, character development, and various overworld maps to explore. All of the added attention to the world isn't just for show, it's to complement the expanded RPG elements. You can expect to go on a lot of quests and side quests all the while upgrading your barbarian's warrior skills, armor, and companion beast. One aspect I found particularly interesting, is that a puzzle RPG would have such a variety of loot to outfit your character with, so if grinding your way to epic loot is your thing, you will have plenty of opportunities in Puzzle Chronicles.
Another nice feature that adds a bit of variety to the gameplay are the five different mini-games. For example, when you go to town to craft or upgrade your gear or try to upgrade your pet's skills you play diffrent puzzle mini-games that are different from the main games reverse tug of war battles. The mini-games are essentially five clever and fun Tetris variations, which can prove to be just as addictive as the main game.
High fantasy on a micro scale
Both the DS and 360 versions were easy to control and get into, but the DS version had the added benefit of touch screen controls, enabling players to quickly slide blocks across the screen. It's a good thing that the controls are so smooth considering the game can get down right brutal on the harder difficulty settings, the DeathBringer mode in particular. Thankfully, the developers were nice enough to allow players to switch difficultly levels in between puzzle battles. So if a particular fight is proving too tough, don't be afraid to drop the difficulty and just move on with the story.
While I'm not a huge fan of the artstyle, I am a fan of the RPG elements, the loot whoring, and of course the addictive puzzle gameplay. I think the biggest compliment that I could pay to the game is saying that I said "I'll play just one more game" several times during the demo. Puzzle Quest fans have a lot to look forward to, especially in terms of content. There is a head to head multiplayer mode so players can challenge their friends with their custom heroes. Length wise, if you just rush through the story and don't take any time to enjoy the sights, you can easily expect over 30 hours of gameplay. On the other hand if you if you go for all the side quests, gear, or you just get addicted, you can expect that number to rise exponentially. So if this sounds like you cup of tea, look forward to it on consoles and handhelds sometime this winter.