Game Reviews

Samurai Puzzle Battle (iPhone)

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Samurai Puzzle Battle (iPhone)

I know what you're thinking: another Bejeweled clone, right? That's exactly right. Samurai Puzzle Battle is very much a Bejeweled clone, with all the gem-swapping, match-three gameplay we've seen a thousand times since the App Store was launched.

But it's also much, much more. If anything, Samurai Puzzle Battle is better described not as a Bejeweled clone, but (for want of a better nerd cliche) as Bejeweled 2.0.

The game is set in a fictionalized feudal Japan, and tells of an epic civil war between a collective of Shogunate rulers in the midst of a rather peculiar steampunk scenario.

In all honesty, Samurai Puzzle Battle doesn't really need the steampunk angle, other than justifying the use of some otherwise conceptually unsuitable units. Nonetheless, the scene is set for you, as one of the territorial warlords, to try and unite Japan under your ruthless banner by wiping out all other political regimes.

You might be thinking at this point how much this sounds like a strategy game, rather than a puzzle one, and you'd be quite right. Samurai Puzzle Battle is a rare gaming hybrid of turn-based strategy and action puzzler - the genres woven together so seamlessly as to craft something of a new, difficult-to-label gaming style.

As incompatible as all this might sound, five minutes at the touchscreen and you'll undoubtedly agree that it works amazingly well.

Selecting whichever units you want to send out from your territory kicks off the epic civil war. Samurai, archers, mechanical spiders, zeppelins, tanks, warrior monks, kamikaze fighters, ghosts, demons and a host of other obscure regiments are at your command.

Some, such as the mechanical and human units, simply require you to be able to afford them. Others however, such as ghosts and tengu demons, must be captured in battle or turned to your side after facing them down in their own, ethereal realms.

Your units are sent out into neighbouring territories in a typical turn-based strategy style: one move per unit until you end your go, allowing the opponents to each make their moves.

Visiting peasant towns allows you to collect taxes, while entering a ghost or demon's realm pits you against them in battle - as it does when moving into a sector occupied by the enemy. Defeating a Shogun wipes out his army, which is the ultimate goal of Samurai Puzzle Battle - leaving cyber-Japan for you to rule all on your own.

The remarkable aspect of Samurai Puzzle Battle is the fighting, all of which is done through puzzles. Going one-on-one against another army involves taking turns to match icons in the puzzle game.

The icons each have their own properties, so matching three fists, for instance, reduces your opponent's energy, while aligning a row of healing icons restores your own. Mana, strength, ki and other objects are also available on the game board.

Defeating an adversary isn't as simple as constant attacks. Building up your own strength and magic are equally important to avoid finding yourself in position to strike a winning blow, yet powerless.

Combining units on the battlefield and selecting the right regiments to attack certain enemies is another primary, strategic concern. Garnering experience on the warpath is vital to understanding how to win out over the large number of adversaries.

It's not all lengthy campaigns, though. If you're looking for a faster game Samurai Puzzle Battle has an excellent array of arcade modes to allow for both practice and more casual, quicker games.

Okay, before we sign off, it's worth making one last mention of Bejeweled. If you love that classic puzzle game (and let's face it, 98.4 per cent of the gaming populace does) then Samurai Puzzle Battle will feel like a very natural and expansive evolution of that original concept.

If you lean more toward the strategy side of gaming, this is still the ideal way to put the iPhone to tactical, warmongering use, so it's hard to find a gaming clique that won't find plenty to enjoy in an absorbing game of Samurai Puzzle Battle.

Samurai Puzzle Battle (iPhone)

Moulds the strategy, action and puzzle genres into a game that's far more absorbing than the sum of its parts