At the Game Developers Conference earlier this year, we got to see what Puzzle Quest 2 had to offer. It returns to its fantasy roots with a new art style and slightly tweaked mechanics, but the one thing that remains the same is that it's still highly addictive. There's something about the match-three mechanic that can keep you going, and in this case, the game can keep you busy for dozens of hours easily.
For a general overview of how Puzzle Quest 2 works, you can read our preview here. At the pre-E3 event in Santa Monica, we were able to check out the six minigames that are included in Puzzle Quest 2, for those who want some variety between fending off villains and exploring dungeons. The minigames still follow the match-three formula, but they are variations of it and require a bit more thought than just lining up matching gems.
All the minigames are optional and can be ignored if you'd rather keep to the original game mechanic. As you explore the many layers of a dungeon, you will eventually wander off the main path and discover something new. You may come across a locked door or special area to explore, which will bring up a minigame that is somewhat related to the task at hand. To open a locked door, you play Bash, a minigame designed for you to deal enough damage to open the door. As you clear away the colored gems, keys will drop onto the grid. Aligning the keys will let you damage the door until it opens. It's essentially the same gameplay mechanic as the main game, but the different objective changes how you approach the game.
The Treasure Grab minigame is a fun one. The grid is full of different coins that you'll get to keep as you clear the rows. The more coins you clear, the more keys will drop, and by matching three keys together, you'll be able to unlock treasure chests at the end of the minigame for new items. There's no penalty for losing in any of the games, but you can't lose at Treasure Grab anyway, so it's one of those games that make you feel better about yourself at the end.
There are some games that are a bit trickier, such as Unlock, where you need to force a specific colored gem to drop into its matching block. It takes some maneuvering and you have a limited number of turns, but it really tests your match-three skills. Pick is another more challenging game. There are two icons sitting below the main grid that cannot be moved, so you have to shuffle the pieces around the board to line the matching icons vertically.
The last two minigames are Search and Disarm. Search involves making matches all over the grid to cover as much space as possible. There are five levels of difficulty; if you're playing on normal, for instance, you have to cover 40 spaces in the grid. Disarm gives you a list of icons that need to be collected, but you also have to avoid lining up the skulls. Almost all of these minigames give you a set number of turns, so as they get harder, you'll have to make your moves more carefully.
For more on Puzzle Quest 2, check out our demo here. Look for the game when it's released June 22 for the Nintendo DS and later this summer for the Xbox Live Arcade.