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Puzzle Quest: The Legend Returns

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Puzzle Quest: The Legend Returns Game Poster Image
Amusing tactical puzzle game with implied fantasy violence.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

The fantasy story contains basic concepts of good and evil, including virtuous heroes fighting villainous monsters. Players are encouraged to think strategically as they examine the game board and plan moves in advance.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The player's character -- whose gender can be selected -- serves the kingdom, including both its people and rulers. He or she fearlessly defends citizens while completing quests vital to mission of saving the world from encroaching doom.

Ease of Play

The main mechanic -- sliding jewels to make horizontal or vertical matches of three or more of the same kind -- is simple to understand and easy to pick up. Special abilities take time to master, but the learning curve is low. Difficulty can be adjusted at the outset by choosing characters that make the game easier or harder.  

Violence

Violence is referenced and assumed. Players equip weapons and armor, and cast spells that are described using words like "attack" and "blood." Matching skulls on the game board causes damage to enemies, indicated by flashes of light, reduced hit points.

Sex

A couple of female characters wear outfits that reveal moderate cleavage.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A picture of a beer mug is used to indicate taverns.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Puzzle Quest: The Legend Returns is a match-3 puzzle and fantasy role-playing game available for download for the Nintendo Switch. This deluxe version of the game was originally released on Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable. Players take on the role of a male or female hero who travels around a kingdom to fight a growing evil represented initially by undead monsters. Battles aren't actually shown but are instead represented as match-3 puzzles in which players attempt to match skulls and cast spells to cause damage to enemies and reduce their hit points. The narrative isn't particularly sophisticated, but it does allow simple themes of good and evil to emerge, and for the player's hero to be portrayed as a force for justice. It's also worth noting that the absence of traditional combat results in a focus on strategy, with players rewarded for tactical planning.

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What's it about?

PUZZLE QUEST: THE LEGEND RETURNS is a deluxe version of the popular 2007 handheld puzzle game Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords. It includes the original game, all downloadable content, and a variety of new quests, classes, spells, and items, and it's been remastered with high-definition graphics. Play is essentially broken into two parts: world exploration and puzzles. Players explore a world map, stopping at towns to talk to non-player characters, accept quests, and buy stuff while trekking across the countryside in pursuit of quest objectives such as enemies and bosses. Whenever they encounter an enemy, a puzzle grid packed with jewels fills the screen. Players must slide gems around to create horizontal or vertical matches of three or more identical jewels, which recharge equipped spells. Coins can also be matched to earn money, and purples squiggles can be matched to gain extra experience used to level up and increase magic powers. But the real objective is to match skulls, which cause damage to enemies. Keep in mind, though, that you take turns with your evil adversaries, and they want to drain your hit points just as much as you want to drain theirs. You don't want to leave a foe with an easy match, and you must also be mindful of enemy spells, which slowly charge as your enemy clears gems.

Is it any good?

Younger players might not believe it, but you used to be able to play a match-3 game without spending tons on microtransactions or waiting for lives to refill on hard levels. Puzzle Quest: The Legend Returns comes from this long forgotten era. It's designed to test the player's puzzle solving skills rather than the depth of their patience and pocketbook. Luck still plays a role -- sometimes the jewels just don't fall in your favor -- but strategic players will most often be rewarded for taking the time to make smart moves and choosing just the right moments to deploy powerful spells that, say, change the color of certain gems or clear entire rows. Should you happen to run across a particularly challenging boss, there's no need to worry about running out of lives and being forced to wait to keep playing because -- get this -- there's no end to your lives!

More than all this, the game provides purpose to the match-3 puzzle formula. Each battle helps progress the story, and each win comes with rewards of coins, experience, and sometimes even items and gear. The storytelling isn't on the same level as a great fantasy book or film, but character interactions are brief  -- providing, if nothing else, a welcome break between lengthy puzzle battles. You'll also have the opportunity between fights to spend points on your magic abilities, forge and equip new gear, and even construct buildings that will open new crafting and information-gleaning possibilities. And while returning players might be disappointed that this is a remaster rather than a sequel, know that there's still plenty of new content -- including several original character classes and more than 100 new quests -- that meaningfully alters and augments the experience. Puzzle Quest: The Legend Returns is an excellent match-3 puzzler that will remind players that such games weren't always designed to be an endless drain on your wallet.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about violence in games. Is the impact of the violence in Puzzle Quest: The Legend Returns affected by the fact that the game doesn't portray combat using visuals, but instead implies it based on context and dialogue? Why is the visual violence typically more disturbing than described or implied violence?

  • What does it mean to think strategically? What sorts of real-life situations are best handled by imagining various outcomes and using this creative exercise to inform your decision-making process?

Game details

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