Puzzle and Dragons – Review

A review of Puzzle and Dragons I wrote for the website www.square-go.com

There was a time, before the iPhone, when if you wanted the best in mobile phone gaming you had to go to Japan.

No, really: thanks to their superior network and more powerful phones the games they had access to were superb. Big franchises made the leap and left the rest of the world looking on in envy. Until the Apple came along and the App Store changed everything. Now the biggest game in the East is making its UK debut; will Puzzle and Dragons become the next big thing?

What we have here is a bit of a mash up of a match three puzzle game in the vein of Bejewelled and a Pokemon style collecting game. The screen is split in half, the bottom is the puzzle grid full of coloured orbs, the top half shows a dungeon that you’re trying to fight your way through. This is a fairly basic looking first person view with enemies that pop up for you to fight.

Fight with what? Well, your team of monsters; you have a team of six, each of a different colour. When you match three of the same colour orbs then the monster of the same colour can attack. Take down the enemies, move on to the next battle and so on until the boss turns up for you to beat to win the dungeon.

The Pokemon aspect comes into it with the eggs that you pick up along the way; in each egg is a new monster which you can either add to your team or use to power up one of your existing team. There are rare creatures that pop up every now and then to keep things interesting.

So far so straight forward until we mention the phrase that strikes fear into the hearts of most gamers: freemium. Yes, Puzzle and Dragons is free to download and has a whole host of in-app purchases available to you. If you die in a stage then you can use a magic stone to continue, run out of stones? Buy some. Each dungeon uses up a certain amount of stamina to enter, ran out of stamina? Spend some money to reset it. This is why this game is said to have made the developer $113m in one month alone.

This is all well and good, but does this mean that the game is good? Well, match three puzzle games are always fairly compelling and comboed with the RPG aspects only accentuates that. But it’s lacking a spark to make it a truly compulsive game. Is this to do with the cynical way the game pushes you to spend money? Maybe. It might be to do with the fairly generic art style, it’s easy on the eye but not something that gets the blood pumping.

So what we have here is a bit of the Candy Crush factor; a game that is a huge money maker but for reasons that aren’t that clear. If you’re after an RPG style puzzle gameon the app store than you’d be much better off picking up something like 10,000,000 or Dungeon Raid. Puzzle and Dragons is a good distraction but thats about as far as it goes.

Two stars out of five

Originally published November 3rd 2013

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