Neopets Puzzle Adventure Hands-On

Play as your favorite Neopet in this addictive puzzle adventure.

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Developer Infinite Interactive surprised gamers last year with Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords, which managed to blend the best elements of two genres: puzzle and role-playing games. The Australian developer has now teamed up with Capcom to bring us another Puzzle Quest-like game--using a brand that casual gamers know and love--called Neopets Puzzle Adventure. Neopets, similar to a virtual Tamagochi, has been around for about a decade and has more than 45 million users. Neopets Puzzle Adventure combines the addictive gameplay of reversi and sets it up in the world of Neopia, where adorable neopets run wild.

The goal of Reversi is to cover the board with your colored tokens.
The goal of Reversi is to cover the board with your colored tokens.

You begin by picking your neopet from one of 12 different species, ranging from Scorchio to Xweetok, with the ability to change the color and gender. Gender doesn't exactly affect how your neopet is going to look, but the option is there anyway. Once you provide your neopet with a snazzy new name, you are whisked away to an enchanting area called Shenkuu, an Asian-themed village nestled on a quaint mountainside. As a newcomer, you are immediately recruited to first help scare off a blobagus and then it seems that everyone has something for you to do. The tasks are set up so that you enter a strategic game of reversi, where the goal is to take up as much of the board as you can with your colored token. The story sets itself up around these reversi challenges, so you'll be walking around the map for awhile and running from one end of the mountain to the other doing errands. The story may not be riveting, but the dialogue is silly and fun so it keeps you pushing forward.

If you don't know how to play reversi, the tutorial does an excellent job of providing the basic instructions. It's a very simple game, but it's one of those games that can take a lifetime to really master. Lucky for you, it only takes a few tries to get the hang of it, and you'll eventually adopt your own strategies to outwit your opponent. You begin the game with four tokens on the gridlike board, with two blue and two red tokens in the center. As the blue player, you want to surround your opponent's red tokens with your own. Your goal is to box the red token in--either horizontally or diagonally--and once you to do, the token(s) will change to blue. You take turns with your opponent and can only place tokens down on areas that will cause the opponent's token to flip. If you wait a few seconds, the game will show you what moves you can make.

The strategy changes once you acquire petpets, which are pets for your neopet. These petpets come with a variety of special abilities, so some can help you remove your opponent's token or change its color. Before battle, you are allowed to equip a specific number of petpets, and they can only be used once per fight. There are 25 petpets to discover and collect. Depending on how you play and what board you're playing on, some have powers that are more helpful than others. As the story develops, your challenges will also increase in difficulty. For example, your board will have areas that are blocked out, which will change your strategy.

Quick Draw tests your reflexes and artistic ability.
Quick Draw tests your reflexes and artistic ability.

Other than the Story mode, you have an Instant Action option to delve into when you go into a single-player campaign. Instant Action offers four games inside, including: Battle, Forging, Training, and Quick Draw. Battle allows you to practice reversi on easy, normal, and hard. You can also select your board type, tile layout, and whether or not you want to use petpets. Forging is a game in which you tap on a group of at least two tiles of the same color to eliminate them, and the goal is to hit the target amount of points. Training is a memory game in which you're trying to match the cards. Each of these games has three difficulty levels; so on hard, the cards will shuffle every time you find a match. In Quick Draw, neopets run across the top screen with signs that have a symbol on them. Your job is to draw the symbol on the touch screen as quickly as you can before it disappears. The game does a good job of recognizing your scribbles, and it's definitely more fun in the harder modes because you're not just drawing X's or O's.

Neopets Puzzle Adventure is a tough game to put down once you get into it. Like chess or checkers, Reversi is about thinking ahead and anticipating your opponent. Once you get that down, you'll find yourself itching to move ahead and beat the next challenge. There is also a multiplayer mode where you can play head-to-head with a friend. In-game achievements will unlock a code that you can redeem on the Neopets.com site for special items. Look for this puzzling adventure when it is released on the DS November 25.

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