I like a good puzzle game and I like Marvel comics, so I was interested to see what Demiurge would do with Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign. For those who’ve played Puzzle Quest before, you’ll be familiar with the match three design that allows players to move one piece one space to match three pieces either horizontally or vertically.
Those three pieces drop out of the board forcing other pieces to fill in their places. Some of those pieces might also match three and drop out so the board is constantly shifting. The Marvel overlay for the puzzle is that individual Marvel characters have different abilities that affect certain pieces on the board. Because of these powers, strategy plays heavily into winning.
The player must pick a team of three Marvel heroes to go against a team of villains. How the player selects the team and which villain they chose to target with each turn has a tremendous impact on the outcome of the board. This is not a simple match three game, although early levels are not as difficult as later levels.
The story is of a dangerous new isotope, Iso-8, that enhances metahuman skills and seems to be able to give enhanced skills to regular humans. S.H.I.E.L.D. is also under corporate attack by Norman Osbourne. Between each puzzle board the story advances as the Marvel Heroes try to gain control over Iso-8, while helping Nick Fury hold on to S.H.I.E.L.D.
Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of overlaying story on to puzzle games. So when I got the opportunity to play Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign, my intention was to primarily focus on the puzzle aspects of the game, because I wasn’t expecting much for the storyline. At first it was exactly what I was expecting, match 3 boards with stilted storyline in between boards. Despite the lack of animation and the weak dialogue, I found the Iso-8 storyline did push me to play just one more board. The plot of the story is interesting and the addition of the superheroes powers to the pieces on the board make for a much richer strategy experience.
That said, the writing for the dialogue between characters is pretty weak. The characters slide in from the side of the screen and say their dialogue. Even the drawing of the characters is very basic. I feel like something that has Marvel’s name, should have better artwork, stronger writing, and better voice acting. Were that the case, I would have given this game 5 GiN Gems.
As it is, it only earns 3.5 GiN Gems. Puzzle fans should definitely check it out, because the puzzle boards are the game’s strongest feature.