Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign iPad Review
Learn how to unlock characters with these Dark Reign tips.
D3Publisher's Puzzle Quest franchise became strong with its mixture of classic match-three gameplay and superb role-playing tactics. Even if battles are against the simplest of enemies, there's plenty of satisfaction from defeating bad guys and leveling up your warrior. For the latest entry in the series, D3 took a different approach by incorporating the world of Marvel, with the result Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign for iOS and Android. It's a novel concept, but its freemium set-up won't be for everyone.
In the game, you lead heroes such as Iron Man, Hawkeye, Spider-Man, Black Widow and others into battle against nameless henchmen and familiar foes, including Venom and Doctor Doom. The goal is to wipe out their energy bars by using a combination of match-three or more tactics, complete with super moves that unlock over the course of battle. Once a character's unique color starts glowing, you can unleash a wonderful attack, where the character appears on-screen and executes a slick animation that leaves your opponent wobbling.
It goes both ways, however. Enemies strike back with small attacks before slowly dominating the board with their own puzzle pieces. If you don't eliminate them in a certain amount of turns, these attacks damage your hero. It's a terrific concept, but later stages are too difficult, with five or so pieces popping up at once.
As you proceed in Puzzle Quest, you'll have the opportunity to heal or train your character to achieve better abilities. You'll need them for later battles, but since this is a "freemium" game, there's a catch. In order to power up, you must use a health icon, and you'll run out of these right away unless you wait an hour or put down some cash. It's a bit unfair, especially if you're in the heat of battle and really need Iron Man to lend a hand.
Likewise, some of the better characters in the game, like classic Spider-Man, are stuck behind a pay wall. You can still unlock plenty of them by winning battles, but you'd think a better earning system would be in place.
In addition to playing through the one Prologue campaign - the rest are locked at the moment, since this is only a Preview Build launch - you can take on friends in both online PvP battles and Tournaments that run on a regular basis. Thankfully, these don't require a fee, though you will need to set up an account to take part - which is free. You should learn more about the game's tactics in single player before jumping in, though, as you only have a limited amount of turns before moving to the next battle.
Marvel Puzzle Quest's stunning visual presentation will satisfy comic book fans. The battle animations look great, the cut scenes appear ripped from the publisher's classic pages and the inclusion of old-school art with modern and classic characters is a real kick. The board is easy to see as well, so you can view which pieces need removing/activating.
However, the sound has its problems. The music is good but repetitive, and the battle effects do their part, but the audio drops out from time-to-time. We're pretty sure D3 will fix this for the game's final release, whenever that is.
How you approach Marvel Puzzle Quest depends on your expectations. It's not complete, and having to pay for stronger characters is a bummer. That said, the concept works, there's plenty of other stuff to unlock and the multiplayer will keep you entertained. Considering it's free, you have nothing to lose by downloading it.
What's Hot:Takes the match-three concept and runs with it, plenty of opportunity to upgrade your characters and unlock new ones, novel multiplayer options, solid graphic presentation, mostly free-to-play.
What's Not:Some of the stronger heroes will take patience (or money) to unlock, some of the conditions in battle can be overwhelming, game is still in "preview mode" and not all levels are unlocked yet, occasional audio problems.