Originally released in early 2007 on the PlayStation Portable and Nintendo DS, Puzzle Quest was a revelation. By taking some of the most compelling properties of puzzle and role-playing games, Infinite Interactive created something that was more than the sum of its parts. It's an RPG that can be played in short bursts, as well as a puzzle game that begs to be played in long stretches. Puzzle Quest is now available on the Wii, and although the screen layout makes the playfield smaller than would be ideal and the controls are less than perfect, the excellent gameplay remains undaunted.
You can play Puzzle Quest in short bursts, but you won't want to.
At the start it seems like RPG business as usual. There's a nicely painted overworld map dotted with castles, villages, and enemy strongholds that you'll travel about, taking on quests and fighting the random monsters that block your path from one location to the next. You'll get new weapons, armor, equipment, and spells; new characters will join your party; and once you establish your own personal citadel, you'll be able to capture creatures and use them as mounts, craft new items out of special runes found out in the world, and eventually lay siege on opposing cities.
What makes Puzzle Quest so interesting is how it uses a familiar puzzle game format to perform these actions. The gameplay is most analogous to Bejeweled. If Puzzle Quest were just Bejeweled, it would probably get tedious quickly, but by applying several standard RPG combat conventions to the formula, it becomes something much more strategic. Standard, one-on-one combat is the most common game you'll play, and it's also the deepest. You and your opponent, each using the same board, will take turns moving pieces, trying to whittle down each other's reserve of hit points. Attacks are performed by lining up skull-shaped pieces, though you've also got several spells that you can use for both offensive and defensive purposes. The spells you'll start off with, as well as the spells you'll earn as you gain experience levels, are largely dictated by which profession you choose at the start of the game.
Spells can require up to four different types of color-coded mana to use, and you charge up your mana reserves by clearing out red, blue, yellow, and green pieces from the board. The back-and-forth dynamic demands that you think several steps ahead any time you move a piece, since you want to avoid setting up your opponent with favorable piece positions at the end of your turn. In addition to the mana and skull pieces, there are gold coins and purple experience-point pieces that can earn you extra postgame bonuses, as well as wild-card multipliers, which can make the mana pieces you clear worth much more.