At first glance, “Puzzle Kingdoms” appears to be a quality title for the Nintendo Wii. Especially when you see “from the creators of Puzzle Quest,” easily one of the best puzzle games of this console generation, stamped right on the box.
However, even before playing, it’s obvious that it would take one heck of a game to fill the shoes of “Puzzle Quest.”
Unfortunately for fans of the puzzle genre, the only shoes this game ends up filling are those of a jester.
Lacking polish, charisma and addictive gameplay, “Puzzle Kingdoms” is a laughable entry into the Wii catalog, at best.
Almost every element of the game, from the linear and lackluster story, to the muddy graphics and poor presentation make it something even hardcore “Puzzle Quest” fanatics would have a problem stomaching.
Simply put, the graphical engine of “Puzzle Kingdom” is an utter joke. Looking like something out of a bad dream done on the Nintendo 64, the colorful gems and complete use of the palette used in “Puzzle Quest” has been replaced by darker, muddier and less enticing backgrounds and character models. Upon playing, it’s obvious that the game was designed to look as close to “Puzzle Quest” as possible with small changes made to give the game its own sense of style. However, the end result is a game that looks incredibly dated and one that most gamers would pass on because of it. Not even acceptable for a current generation handheld, this game should have spent more time in development or should have been released as a downloadable title.
The same thing goes for the story, which features the same main villain as “Puzzle Quest,” but lacks the energy of the plot that fueled the 30-plus hour experience of its big brother. Playing “Puzzle Kingdoms” feels like a chore more than anything else, in spite of the solid gameplay because its story features characters that we don’t care about in a world that is void of any type of interesting elements. That combined with the terrible graphics create a one-two punch that is unavoidable regardless of your affection for the genre.
On a positive note, the gameplay is solid. Unlike “Puzzle Quest,” where gamers move one square at a time to create rows of three gems of the same color, “Puzzle Kingdoms” makes you shift rows or columns of gems to create matches. It may take some time to get used to, but when you do, the game is enjoyable. Unlike “Puzzle Quest,” where you’d fight by yourself and build up spell power by making matches, PK uses an army system where you gain points to prepare your forces for attack. It’s a sly little system that works well, but again, with so many other problems, it’s hard to get a gamer to sit down with the title and give it an honest shot.
Unlike every other element of the game, the score is simply phenomenal. Classical and orchestral music usually works well in RPGs, but the guys at Zoo games did a great job putting the tunes together for this game. Capturing the essence of the fighting, you may even find yourself humming along. That is if you get past all the other problems the game has.
With so many problems, it’s hard to recommend “Puzzle Kingdoms” to casual gamers, but those dedicated to the genre with immense patience may find something to like. However, that process is an arduous one that may require more time than the game is ultimately worth.