Neopets Puzzle Adventure First Look

What happens when Capcom and Infinite Interactive mix Neopets and Puzzle Quest? We find out in this first look at Neopets Puzzle Adventure.

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The Neopets phenomenon has been a sleeping giant on the Internet for nearly a decade now. The virtual pets and the world of Neopia have proven to be a powerful draw for fans of all ages. While there have been some attempts to create console and portable games around the wildly popular casual franchise, there hasn't been one to properly tie together the various elements of the franchise. Capcom and developer Infinite Interactive (maker of Puzzle Quest) are giving it a go with a new game titled Neopets Puzzle Adventure for the DS, PC, and Wii. We had the chance to get a look at an early version of the game running on the PC, and we were downright shocked at how well the blend of Puzzle Quest and Neopets is working out.

The game's story is set around Neopia and has you helping out the locals. You'll be able to choose an identity from one of the 12 most popular species in the game, each with different ratings in strength, movement, and defense. You'll be able to customize your color, name, and gender, and then you'll head out. The demo let us move around a world map set in one of several different locales that will be available in the game. The demo world featured an Asian theme, but there will also be a tropical island and pirate, desert, and futuristic locations. Gameplay is in the same vein as Puzzle Quest: You'll go to specific locations to pick up quests--in the case of the demo it was to go take out some bandits--then head over to a highlighted spot on the map and get down to business.

Battle is quite a bit different. It's based on Reversi (or Othello) and challenges you to flip markers on a playfield to your color. The simple premise is enhanced by the addition of items and gear you can use by collecting gems on the playfield. If you collect enough gems, you can use one of two items--a shield or a sword--which offer different beneficial effects. In addition, you can use collected gems to unleash your Petpets--pets for your Neopet--which function as spells. You can equip several different pets, each with its own unique attacks, which you can level up via a minigame. All told, you'll find 150 Petpets in the game. You'll also collect items on your adventures that can be combined with other items in minigames, which will yield better items to use during battle. From the sound of it, there's going to be a lot to uncover in the game, including codes for unique items on the Neopets Web site, which should make for meaty play time.

The visuals are clean and stick closely to the familiar art style Neopets fans will recognize. The bulk of what we've seen is 2D, although the character creation sequence has a 3D model to rotate and admire. Overall, the graphics stick to the Puzzle Quest aesthetic of keeping it simple with some bits of flair in animation and special effects to keep the gameplay interesting to watch.

At this point, we can say we're intrigued to play Neopets because it has a lot of promise. We're curious to hear more about the level cap and how the different multiplayer modes will work. At the moment, Capcom is saying that the PC will have online play, the DS will be local Wi-Fi, and the Wii will be head-to-head. Based on what we saw, Neopets is on track to be the best game based on the license to date. Infinite Interactive's ridiculously addictive Puzzle Quest formula looks to be a smart fit with the license. The simple, accessible gameplay should be something fans of the franchise take to easily. At the same time, the familiar characters and minigames that are being incorporated into the game should give it a comfortable feel. Once you toss in the wealth of collectibles, item creation, and the various combinations to discover within, you have the makings for a time suck of black-hole proportions for both Neopets and Puzzle Quest fans. Neopets is slated to ship this winter for the DS, PC, and Wii.

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