What do you get when you mix a monster collecting game, a puzzler, a social game, and an RPG in a blender? Technically, you’d get a really bizarre smoothie. But metaphorically speaking, you’d get Puzzle & Dragons, an excellent freemium title for iOS and Android from GungHo Online Entertainment.
The concept behind Puzzle & Dragons has you trawling through dungeons, fighting waves of enemies with your own team of monsters. But instead of your typical menu-driven RPG combat, you fight by matching sets of orbs in groups of three on the bottom half of the screen. The colors of orbs you match determine which of your team goes on the offensive (or if you recover your team’s HP), and the more sets of three you can match in a single move, the more your attack and healing magic powers will multiply before blasting the enemy. Manipulating the orbs to set up combos takes some practice, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be blowing away foes in a satisfying shower of damage numbers. If you’re lucky, you might even earn eggs from defeated creatures to add to your ranks—or fuse with other monsters to boost their power.
As you unlock more dungeons to explore, the enemies get tougher and tougher. Part of the fun of Puzzle & Dragons is the strategy involved in party-building. Monsters have two sets of skills: special attack and healing spells that can be used after a certain number of turns, and boosts that affect the whole party if they are placed in a leader position. Knowing how to exploit the strengths and weaknesses of the various elemental affiliations is also key to defeating enemies quickly and reducing your damage. But balance is important, too. For example, if you go into a water dungeon with only wood creatures, you’ll inflict a lot of damage, but you won’t attack at all if you match orbs that aren’t colored green. You can also “borrow” other players’ monsters to help you out (and gain additional benefits from their beasts if you invite them to become friends).
Puzzle & Dragons is free to play, but you can buy “Magic Stones” in game for real money to recover, increase your critter-holding capacity, or spend on the powerful monster-dispensing rare egg machine. But don't worry, you can also earn this stuff over the course of normal play. But no matter how many magic stones you use to try and win rare and powerful creatures, it’s ultimately your puzzle abilities, careful party planning, and monster skill usage that will determine your success. With an ever-changing selection of special, limited-time dungeons and hundreds of creatures to collect, Puzzle & Dragons is a fun, challenging, and addicting portable game.
Hint: Log in as much as possible! Even if you can’t play long, you’ll rack up sweet bonuses.
by Heidi Kemps