Even if you've never played Bejeweled, it's a name you probably have heard. A simple game of matching rows of three or more same colored gems, it became one of casual gaming's great success stories.

Now imagine that game draped in the trappings of a fantasy dungeon crawler where combat, and pretty much everything else, is sorted out through playing a variation of Bejeweled, and you have the essentials of Puzzle Quest 2.

There really isn't a whole lot to the gameplay itself. Fighting monsters, looting treasure, picking locks, springing traps, and other miscellaneous activities are all accomplished through playing a variation on the gem matching game. In quest mode, the player takes turns with a computer controlled opponent at matching three or more gems in a row on a game board. Matching a line of four or more nets an extra turn.

Colored gems fill up a corresponding mana gauge which in turn can be used to fuel different magical effects in combat (such as using purple mana to create a stealth shield.) Fist gems will fill an action points gauge that can be spent on a physical action (raising a shield or attacking with a sword, for example.) Finally, skull gems can be lined up to cause direct damage to an opponent's life points.


My favorite version of the puzzle is used for picking locks. Here, specific shapes that represent lock tumblers line the bottom of the puzzle screen. To unlock them, at least 2 matching shapes need to be lined up on top of them. Despite this touch of variety, the game still involves playing some version of Bejeweled over and over again, making it very repetitive played in anything other than short bursts.

The quest part of Puzzle Quest 2 isn't terribly deep, either; it's a simple dungeon crawler that doesn't really offer any exploration as all goals are marked on the map which can be displayed on the DS' top screen. There is a selection of characters to play as and various weapons, armors, and spells can be collected. There are many different types of enemies that attack with various spells. Despite this variety, rarely did I need to adjust my tactics to win in battle. Once I had enough health to take a few hits, combat became very easy.

Puzzle Quest 2 may not be a very challenging game, but at least it looks quite nice. Aesthetically, the game has a definite Dungeons and Dragons vibe. The sprites, character portraits, and backgrounds are all very detailed, though the only sprite with more than a standing animation was the one I controlled. The music in the game is very low key, appropriate for the simple action and medieval theme but hardly memorable. Oddly enough, the game features quite good voice acting. Characters only repeat one or two lines, but they are delivered very well, with characters having a variety of tones and accents.

I have to say, Puzzle Quest is not really my cup of tea. With that in mind I can't really give Puzzle Quest 2 a thumbs up nor a thumbs down, but must remain neutral. It's a shallow game in a nice looking package, ideal for playing on the bus or doctor's office, but not robust enough in content to sink my teeth into for a long play session. If you are a Bejeweled fan, or just love puzzle games, then you'll probably really enjoy this take on the gem matching game.