Game Reviews

Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign

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Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign

This is a freemium game review, in which we give our impressions immediately after booting a game up, again after three days, and finally after seven days. That's what the strange sub-headings are all about. Click on the link to jump straight to day three.

Comic book super heroes are really awesome.

Games where you match three gems of the same type also have the capacity to be very good indeed.

So what do you think would happen if, like some kind of ultra crazy crossover, the worlds of match-three and Marvel were to collide in a video game for your iOS device?

Well, I'm about to find out, as I put Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign through its paces over the next week.

First impressions

The Earth has been struck by meteors from outer space, and within them has been discovered a new chemical called Iso-8, which can bequeath terrible power to the person wielding it. It's been discovered by the Marvel universe's heroes, who want to use it for good, but it's also fallen into the hands of ne'er-do-wells who seek to use it for evil.

Who will win in this epic struggle? What secrets lie within ISO-8? And who cares?

As you can already discern, the plot in Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign is hokey from the off, but it's told in a light-hearted tone with a couple of decent gags thrown in. Best of all, it's easily skipped with the prod of a button.

You match three kinds of the same tile, and in doing so you deal damage to villains that stand opposite your own team of heroes.

They do the same to you, and they can lay it on thick by placing special tiles. These must be removed from play by matching them with their corresponding tiles, or you suffer damage. If you knock out all the baddies, you win.

There's not a great deal of difference between this and Bejeweled, but then Bejeweled is pretty good - why mess with success?

Day 3: Make mine...

Okay, there's a lot more to Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign than just matching three, and that's been made clear after a few days with the game.

Firstly, it looks really good. The high-resolution art of the characters and the detailed Covers you win (unlocking characters and additional powers), all sparkle. Marvel's art always looks strong, and this outing is no exception.

Secondly, you can customise the characters you have in your party, and level-up those you like playing with.

I'm currently ploughing all of my efforts into making an absolutely kick ass Iron Man, because I really like his ability to directly attack enemies and put serious dents in their health.

These special moves really make you think harder about your strategy in the game. Should you keep plugging away at the bad guys by matching tiles normally and save up to use top-tier powers, or do you use them as soon as they become available so that you can clear a board of enemy attacks?

In addition, you can decide which enemy you're going to attack. Focusing on one often means you knock that person out quicker, reducing the effectiveness of the entire team. Some bad guys heal their mates, for example, so you may wish to get rid of them first, before mopping up the others.

Day 7: Iso think you'll enjoy it

As I'm getting to the end of my time with Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign, I'm enjoying myself more and more.

The gameplay options have only deepened and expanded as I've encountered new foes and heroes, and the appeal of the rare cards on offer is immense.

I splurged some of my premium currency - the Hero Points - on a randomly drawn, guaranteed rare card, and was awarded a Loki. If you're unfamiliar with who that is, he's the slimy chap from the Thor movie with the antlers on his head.

I don't much care for the characters of the Asgard-based comics, but adding him to my team resulted in a massive boost to my abilities.

I've spent all this time improving my Iron Man, but with just one purchase I obtained a single character more powerful than all of the heroes I've collected so far combined. Perhaps that's unfair when it comes to balancing, but you do receive Hero Points occasionally for completing missions, so it's difficult to get too upset.

The new superheroes and villains I've faced bring with them their own abilities, and they rarely duplicate functionality.

Staying with Loki for a moment, this crafty gent summons 16 Attack Tiles when you've built enough AP, and each tile deals one point of damage to your opponent at the end of your turn. Get a few of these attacks on the board and you're laughing. Probably quite maniacally, if you're playing with Loki.

Your opponents have the same access to these tactics, of course, so you'll need to utilise powers which spawn Hero Protect Tiles too, or swiftly remove the Attack Tiles from play by matching them with other regular tiles.

There's a depth of strategy here, as you'd expect from a Puzzle Quest game, and a bunch of modes in which to exercise your tactical abilities. Story missions form the backbone of the game, with asynchronous online multiplayer also letting you take on the world. It's not revolutionary stuff, but it's perfectly good.

And that's probably a good way of summing up the title as a whole: it's a game that's not going to set your world ablaze, but it's well made and nicely presented. If you're a fan of previous Puzzle Quest games, or even puzzle games generally, you'll dig it.

How are you getting on with the game? You can tell us and the rest of the PG community about your experiences by leaving a comment in the box below.

Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign

Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign won't win any awards for innovation, but it's a good little match-three puzzler with strong art and enough depth to keep you returning for more