In the hierarchy of virtual playthings, we would place Neopets on the seventeenth level, somewhere between Horsez and Hamsterz. Yet here we are, excitedly playing and writing about the multicolored freaks. Has the world gone topsy turvy? Seems that way, but check it – Puzzle Adventure is from the developers of Puzzle Quest, aka the best, best, best puzzle game in a long, long, long time. Don’t let the bizarre Nickelodeon franchise sway you, as there’s an actual addictive game trapped inside.
Above: Just try to ignore the top screen and the sides of the bottom screen
Just as Puzzle Quest started with Bejeweled and its upcoming sequel Galactrix is a takeoff from Hexic, Puzzle Adventure takes a classic board game, Othello (or Reversi), and makes it the core of gameplay. Like many iconic puzzle games, the tile-flipping mechanics are easy to learn, but a great depth lies beneath. You need to think five moves ahead and be adaptable and ruthless if you want to best a Yurble (cripes, even their names are lame) at their own game. So, once we got through the armada of text bubbles and started our first fight, all the terrible bells and whistles in the world couldn’t take away our interest in the battles.
As with Puzzle Quest, mystical attributes like luck and magic come into play. If you make a big enough combo or change a large enough group of pieces to your color, it creates a shockwave that randomly changes an enemy’s piece into your color as well, which sparks a whole new series of moves, which if you’re real lucky will cause another shockwave and it begins again. Meanwhile, magic derives from the helpful, yet poorly named Petpets, the pets of the Neopets. Just like the spells in Puzzle Quest, each Petpet has their own board changing ability, but they’re limited to one use per battle, though the number of Petpets equipped can change each time you enter a new battle.
We know we bashed on Neopets a lot here, but we had so much fun with the actual game we kept playing and playing. We hope the full version (due in November) retains its addictive, “just one more battle” feel over the long run. Based on the few hours we spent, it’s certainly possible, especially if you happen to actually enjoy the Neopets façade.
Surprisingly promising stuff - we’ll just have to get used to stifling a groan every 10 minutes.