A bit too long, but an addictive blend of genres and a fun way to pass time.

User Rating: 8 | Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords PSP
Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords is one of those games that while are far from blowing you away, hold your interest for quite a while and tend to grow on you the more you play. For a while I was playing nothing but Puzzle Quest, even while I was doing other things like watching TV. It's dangerously addictive for a while, and it creeps up on you.

PQ is basically a fusion of Puzzle & RPG genres, albeit 70% puzzle. In fact the RPG element is basically a filler between puzzle showdowns. You basically move from point to point on the map, picking up quest missions and filler sub-quests.

Each time you stop at a different town on the map and chat to someone, the visual style changes to a crisp 2D animation, with the characters themselves looking very nice and the backgrounds serviceable. There's some typical 'The town of North-Orcish-Elfington has been invaded, you must aid the peasants in their defense of the town walls!' type dialogue, which of course means yet another puzzle battle. These dialogues may hold your interest for a while, but since the game itself is overly long and the story really drags out, you'll find yourself rapidly hitting buttons to skip all the unnecessary banter and get down to business.

There's not much variation in the puzzles themselves, which are like a fantasy-themed Bejeweled (swords 'n' sorcery type fantasy, not the type that involves Japanese schoolgirls). Line up at least 4 identical pieces and they vanish, and if you're lucky, other pieces will fall in such away that they too line up and vanish.

The difference here is that the colors of the pieces also represent different types of mana, which once built up you can use to cast a variety of spells, including attacking and healing spells among others. Also scattered on the playing board are skulls (every set you clear does damage to the opponent), money (used to purchase weapons and upgrades) and purple thingamajigs that give you EXP.

Building your character up to a decent level is a slow and grinding process. You'll feel this especially when you start off, as the enemies will for the most part wipe the floor with you through ridiculously long combo chains. The AI's uncanny ability to set off mammoth chains that deplete large amounts of your health continues throughout most of the game, (try playing this and not swearing like a drunken sailor) but as you persist you will eventually grow stronger, and finally defeating that foe who's been haunting your dreams is almost as satisfying as that first beer when you get home from work.

2 factors seperate PQ from the crowd: originality and addictiveness. If you like puzzle games, enjoy a challenge and don't mind the odd spot of RPGing, this one's for you. By the way, if you're not sure what console to play this on, it's PSP for sure, simply for the fact that there is too much crammed into the puzzle screens for the DS version not to be a strain on your eyes.