Puzzle Quest 2 is the follow-up to the widely loved and acclaimed DS and XBLA game Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords, which took the simple puzzle design of games like Bejeweled and Tetris Attack and applied an RPG skin to it. A simple thing yes, but it turned out to be one of the most fun games I have ever played. The gameplay, at heart, is still the same in the sequel: match colored gems to gather mana, and perform spells to deal damage to your opponent and win the battle.
To spice things up a little bit, developer Infinite Interactive added another gem type, the Action Point, to allow gamers to use weapons and items in battle. Is it a waste? Absolutely not. In fact, the weapons and items are all upgradeable using resources you gather from defeating enemies and looting. For the RPG fan in you, there is nothing more satisfying than using your fancy new Falchion to do 31 damage to a horrible abomination (or maybe just a swarm of rats).
As with the previous game, you may choose from four classes to adventure with: The Barbarian (who excels at dealing damage), the Templar (who is hard to kill, but deals less damage than other classes), the Sorcerer (who can manipulate the board and his opponent easily), and the Assassin (who can manipulate the board to deal massive damage).
All classes have the option of being created as a male or female, which doesn’t add anything to the character stats and only changes the artwork/sprite for your hero. There will be those disappointed with the exclusion of the Druid class (my personal favorite from the first game), but the other classes play the same as the Knight, Wizard, and Warrior classes from the prequel.
New to the game is the isometric perspective in which exploration is performed — a far fling from the world traveling map that you had to go through in the first game. Puzzle Quest 2 focuses more on telling the story of one adventurer and his/her impact on a small town rather than on an entire world.
The new perspective makes exploration more traditional in a way, allowing the player to explore dungeons room by room. Yes, you are able to search rooms now, in addition to other mini games that revolve around the game’s gem-matching: searching rooms to discover traps or ambushes, gathering loot, bashing down doors, and disabling traps.
Gem-matching surrounds most, if not all, of the game’s mechanics, which could be viewed as a nuisance. It does keep your mind in the game and focused on attempting to combo gem matches, but it feels like the game just throws puzzles at you left and right. I understand that it’s a puzzle game, but it’s okay to have a break from them every once in a while.
Speaking of loot, the newly improved inventory system is a much welcomed addition to the sequel. The menu system is much more streamlined and is less cluttered than on Challenge of the Warlords (at least the XBLA version) and allows players to quickly decide which piece of equipment allows the maximum effectiveness. It’s not as good as it could be, but it’s very much a step up from what it once was.