Puzzle Quest 2 ($9.99) by Namco Networks America Inc. is a port of the hit match-3 game already available for Xbox Live Arcade and a variety of other mobile platforms. Unlike the iOS port of the original Puzzle Quest, however, this one is ready for prime time right from the get go.
Puzzle Quest 2, like the original, is an amalgamation of few genres, most notably the match-3 genre. At its core, it plays like every other match-3 game known to man, but it caters to the geekiest of gamers by requiring quite a bit of strategy and allowing you to upgrade your character to better suit your playing style. The best part about the game is that it doesn't deviate far from the original, simply adding to the gameplay that we already know and love.
Puzzle Quest 2 allows you to choose from four hero classes, each with a male and female version. The four classes offer a little something for everyone, but if you are new to Puzzle Quest, we recommend starting with the Barbarian class since it's the most balanced. Once you have picked your character, it's off to battle you go.
The game starts off relatively slowly, teaching you the basics of attacking, casting spells and upgrading your character. No matter which class of character you choose, the goal of the game is to match like-colored gems to obtain mana, match skulls to inflict damage, or match action pieces (gloves) to use your special weapon. Specific amounts of red, yellow, purple, blue, and green mana are required to cast your spells, which is where the strategy part of the game comes in. Do you skip over a possible skull match to fill up your mana meter, or do you forget about all of that and go after the action pieces to ensure your enemy can't use their special weapon? The decision is yours to make, so choose wisely.
As you progress through the game, you will be able to level up your character while also being rewarded with all kinds of new items to equip or sell. If your character has leveled up, you can spend your points on beefing up specific attributes. This doesn't seem overly important during the early stages of the game, as most casual fans will be able to breeze right through, but they will definitely come into play as you go deeper and deeper into enemy territory. Some of the later battles may even leave you pulling your hair out, but don't worry, you can always play Quick Battles to level up your character without going through the campaign in order to get a leg-up on the competition.
Speaking of additional modes, you can take part in mini-games, which are actually included in the campaign, and a tournament mode, which pits your team of characters up against a team controlled by the enemy AI. The last team standing is the winner. This mixes up the gameplay quite a bit, and introduces you to new spells and strategies that you may not have employed before. Sadly, the only thing really missing is a multiplayer mode, something you would have thought would have been in place since the game utilizes Game Center for leaderboards and achievements.
The game's controls have also translated very well to our favorite touch-based mobile platform. Gems can be swapped by tapping one and then another, or you can simply swipe your finger over the two you want to swap. Touching and holding on an item or spell at any time will allow you to see all of the attributes for each one, which is great for learning when to use them. Once you have played long enough, however, you will have it all memorized and will have little need for the pop-up menus.
To be perfectly honest, Puzzle Quest 2 is as close to match-3 perfection as you can get on the iOS platform, or any other platform for that matter. It features deep, engaging gameplay that will have you sitting on the couch with your iPhone or iPad for hours on end. It's as graphically appealing on an iPhone or iPad as it is on any other platform as well. The new items and abilities add so much more to the gameplay that you may as well forget that the original even existed, which is saying a lot.
I only wish the developers had included some form of multiplayer like in the console version so you could take your character online and show off your skills, but here's to hoping that comes via a future update. Even without it, this is a must-buy game for anyone who is a fan of the match-3 genre. Don't let the strategy and RPG elements scare you off either, as the game holds your hand long enough for you to get the hang of it before things start to get messy.