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Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords
  opened by paleface at 18:51:03 12/24/07  
  last modified by paleface at 12:27:18 03/05/24  
  paleface [sys=PSP; cat=Puzzle; reg=NA]
Excellent, medieval fantasy-themed puzzle game whose basic play is similar to ZOOO, where you flip adjacent blocks to form matching rows of three or more. The difference here is that there's no time limit (unless you set one in a separate challenge mode), and there's an opponent with whom you alternate turns.
This changes the strategy entirely, as you have to be very careful that your move doesn't leave the opponent with an opening. Skull blocks, when matched in a row, damage the other player; once all of one party's health is gone, the fight is over. You also learn spells as you go, depending on your attributes (which you level up using XP gained in battles), and your class (Warrior, Mage, Knight, Thief, I think). Spells take different colors of magic power, gained by making rows of blocks of that color during play. Spells can do things like give you extra turns, protect you from damage, damage your opponent, and other more complicated things.
So, you have to keep lots of things in mind while choosing your move, at least in order to beat the tougher battles. It's a brilliant, thought-provoking system, and perfect for a turn-based puzzle game. Wrapping it all in a loose, well-written--if fairly generic--story, and adding in things like the collection of battle-boosting items, and citadels you can build and use to study spells, raise steeds, or capture opponents, among other things, makes it all the more compelling. It's very easy to lose yourself in a series of quest battles as you "explore" a sewer maze, deliver a vital message to a neighboring fortress, and so forth.
The Puzzle Quest series originate on the PC, I think I've read, and apparently this PSP port, by a different company, has a nasty bug in it where "companions" you can acquire, which are supposed to provide a passive boost during battle, don't actually do anything for you. I've also read that they aren't at all necessary to completing the game, but it is a bit of a downer that the bug slipped by QA at the last minute.
In addition to Quest mode, you can configure one-off battles at any time, and the money and XP you earn in these counts toward your story character's advancement, which is nifty.
The graphics and sound are quite well done, suitably modulated, and provide a pleasant background for nonstop hours of mindbending puzzle battles.
· Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords (PS3)
· SuperLite 2000 Series: ZOOO (PS2)

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