Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2013-11-10 Android Puzzle D3 Publisher/Demiurge

I've been a Puzzle Quest fan since the original game came out on the DS. It took me a long time to get used to Galactrix, but while it's not my cup of tea, I was eventually pleased with it. And then along came Puzzle Quest 2, which had me completely addicted all over again.

When I received a press release in my email that contained the words Marvel Puzzle Quest recently, I didn't think twice and instantly downloaded it on my phone. A chance to play PQ again and to learn about Marvel characters, which I am not too familiar with (except for the movies and S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show) sounded like a solid plan for entertainment.

Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign takes the familiar puzzle mechanics we have grown to love in Puzzle Quest, adds a Marvel theme and some gameplay differences. Your party is now composed of three characters, which are obtained via comic book covers (character cards, if you will). In a way, you are playing a card game too, since you select your party members according to the covers in your collection, and can be rewarded with new ones from collecting daily bonuses or completing stages.

Your characters can train skills and level up, but this isn't done by playing mini-games as in previous Puzzle Quest titles. To train a skill, your character requires another comic book cover of the same type that has the skill you want to level. Only after raising skills you are able to level up a character, which costs ISO-8, one of the other rewards you can receive for defeating enemies.

This leveling process seems a bit odd to me. We could very well just do the skill training and automatically advance a level, instead of having to raise skills and level separately.

I really enjoyed browsing through the comic book covers I had unlocked. The artwork is phenomenal and there is always some background story for each of the characters, which was great for me to get acquainted with them. Obviously, space is limited for covers, but you can unlock more slots for your collection with in-game currency or real currency, if you so choose.

The puzzle mechanics are still the same we've grown accustomed to. You accumulate colored gems to unleash powerful attacks, or attack directly by matching the black ones. If you look closely, you will notice that gems have symbols that correspond to your party members: a circle for Iron Man, a lightning bolt for Storm, an arrow for Bullseye, claw for Wolverine.

Once a color starts flashing, that means you have accumulated enough power to unleash a special move. Tap on flashing gems to see what you can do. Special moves aren't always attacks, and certain characters will be able to stun enemies, heal allies or alter the puzzle field (icons with different properties will appear on the gems) to your advantage. For example, Storm's Hailstorm will mark gems with a fist icon: for every "fist gem" remaining on the field at the end of your turn, the enemy takes 2 points of damage. It's one of my favorite abilities to use.

There is a point in every Puzzle Quest game where the battles become nearly impossible to win, which forces you to backtrack and level up. It's no different here, but at least tapping on a battle on the world map will classify it as Trivial, Easy, Normal, Hard and even Impossible, so you know what you are getting into.

For a free game, Marvel Puzzle Quest is actually quite flexible. There are daily bonuses to collect, plenty of battles to fight, different story lines going on, and you can even go head to head with other players in S.H.I.E.L.D. Versus mode or during the weekly events. Sure, you still need to wait for your characters to recover health and certain features are available through micro-transaction only, but you can still play it casually and enjoy it without hurting your wallet.