Considering that Neopets Puzzle Adventure is based on a popular Web site dedicated to the nurturing of digital pets, you'd be forgiven for dismissing (or embracing) it as little more than fan-friendly fare. Though the game manages to generate some appeal for both Neopet fans and newcomers with its addictive puzzle gameplay, this version of Puzzle Adventures has too many flaws to make it worth playing.
Neopets Puzzle Adventure takes after Puzzle Quest, last year's successful genre-blending game that mixed deep role-playing elements with simple puzzle gameplay. At the outset of the game you'll choose from a selection of oddly dressed Neopets, create a profile, and then board a Neopet airship to begin a long-winded journey involving a pair of mysterious amulets and their hidden powers. Though the dialogue is occasionally funny, the talkative cutscenes serve only as filler between battles in the strictly linear Story mode.
Battles play like a souped-up version of Othello or Reversi. You and another player take turns placing colored pieces on the board. Sandwiching an opponent's piece, whether horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, will flip it to your color. In a normal game of Othello, the player with the most pieces at the end wins. But thanks to a number of twists, you don't always have to dominate the board to win a match.
These twists come in the form of a variety of board tiles and petpets. For example, if you manage to flip a piece on a yellow glowing tile, you'll trigger a shockwave, which will flip one of your opponent's pieces to your color. If you're lucky, you can chain multiple shockwaves and rack up a huge score. In addition to the ever-changing shockwave tiles, you'll find tiles with bonus points, stat bonuses, or jewels. The stat-bonus tiles come in three flavors (strength, movement, and defense), and will yield different point totals based on the Neopet that you chose to play as and how you spent your experience points. The key to victory is in your score, so you'll have to strategically place your pieces on bonus tiles if you want to win.
While running errands and completing quests in the Story mode, you'll pick up a variety of petpets and weapons, which act as power-ups during a battle. Petpets can do anything from destroy your opponent's pieces to give you an extra turn. By the end of the game, you'll be able to bring a number of petpets, weapons, and special items into battle with you. Though some petpets are more useful than others, there are no surefire winners, so battles rarely feel unbalanced. The tile variety and petpets add a healthy serving of luck to the fast-paced strategic gameplay of Othello, making every match play out differently.