A marvelous puzzle journey
Ah, quiet, placid Puzzle Quest. We’ve seen many versions of the classic match-three game and yet, somehow, some way there’s a unique spin added that catches the eye and delights. Marvel Puzzle Quest, the mobile juggernaut from Demiurge Studios, is a spectacular extra move-laden free-to-play bounty for on the go.
I’ve played at least two versions of Puzzle Quest and they’re decent. Having that history helps with concepts and understanding some of the intricacies of MPQ, but the base match-three concept is not hard, though. Your goal is to match three or more like-colored gems (green, black, yellow, blue, red, purple, and silver) to damage your opponent until they are downed. You can have a team of one to three characters who will take turns matching gems against an AI-controlled team. From time to time, match conditions vary — especially depending on the mode or in-game event, but the main goal is generally to take out your opponent as cleanly as possible.
The Marvel component comes in through characters to collect from the storied comic book company. Your team and the AI’s team will be composed of Marvel characters ranging from the obscure to the most recent MCU-themed versions, ranked in a five-star system. Characters have three special moves — sometimes with subsets and passives — that must be unlocked. How you obtain them is where the pay aspect comes into play. Pricing can be steep when you’re trying to build a decent roster, but it’s no worse than some of the other options out in the marketplace right now, and it has a more satisfying feel to completing a collection here. As a well-known Marvel doctoral candidate, I have had a lot of fun pulling together a roster with MPQ. I know most, if not all, of the characters and their variants (thanks, Loki!), and it’s decent work to keep track of who I have earned or am still hunting down. In the year that I’ve been playing, I’ve created a spreadsheet that’s updated daily to track where my collection stands. It’s that deep.
The depth of the puzzle engine is also surprising. It’s not uncommon to strategize moves, matches and board setup to maximize potential damage in a fight. The AI is well-balanced, enough that I rarely feel as though it’s unfair. I also very seldom lose matches now that my roster is about 80 percent complete. And in terms of roster-building, I also tend to get my fair share of rare and powerful five-star characters. MPQ could easily be a money sink, but it’s avoided with a lot of developer balancing behind the scenes.
The balancing act also extends to the different modes, and it’s a job well done. There are quite a few events to choose from at any given time, and they’re fun to mill around in to improve your skills and earn rewards. You can join an Alliance, which is highly recommended. The benefits from joining a solid squad can mean getting a rare character for free, or other perks you might have to pay for normally. The modes are nice and provide a change of pace. There’s a daily mode featuring Deadpool with different requirements; Versus mode, where you face off against AI-controlled avatars of real teams; Puzzle Gauntlet, where there are solution-oriented puzzles against teams; Story events, where pre-determined stories play out through matches and cut scenes; and, time-limited events, where you and possibly your alliance join forces to take down a boss.
Demiurge Studios also does a great job with how the game looks, as well. MPQ has some of the best mobile graphics of anything on the market right now, and the use of actual run comic book covers to represent characters is fantastic. The background art also looks amazing and crisp. Demiurge outdid themselves and for a seven-year-old game, it still looks solid and well done. The soundtrack is nice, but it’s nothing to write home about. I usually keep the music turned off, but it’s by no means terrible.
If you’re into Marvel, you’re going to love this. You’re going to drop a lot of money trying to build your roster, and you’re going to have fun doing it. Even if you’re not into Marvel that much, you’re going to find some value in this. It’s a good time wrapped up in a mobile game that plays well and provides a lot in small package. It’s a marvelous play no matter how you look at it.