Ever had a game series you liked, but struggled to get to play? Well that is me with Puzzle & Dragons. Over the years I have managed to get some brief time on it, but never been able to stick with it.
There are many reasons. Ranging from localisation, to selling the hardware. It is a game I like, but was never able to get great at. However, I get another chance as the series is back on the Switch with Puzzle & Dragons Gold.
What we have here is something that maintains the core idea of Puzzle & Dragons, but tries to do something different with it. The issue I have, is I can’t decide if it is a good thing or not.
So let’s start with the core gameplay. Puzzle & Dragons is still using the 6×5 grid made up of orbs that you need match. You do the matches by making lines (or groups) of at least 3 orbs of the same colour. You do this by picking a single orb and dragging it around the grid to manipulate the others. Any matches are then cleared from the board, allowing others to fall into place.
You matches are converted into attacks, so the more you make, the higher the attack value is. You attack using your team, where the colours matched fit with the attacks the team have. So if your leader has a red attack, you’ll want to match red orbs, green for green, etc.
You get bonuses for certain conditions, such as clearing a row of a set colour, or getting two dark and two light in the same combo. There are plenty of variants here that have to come into your strategic thinking.
That is the core part of the game. Where it differs (from what I can remember) is that the old Puzzle & Dragons games were more of an RPG type adventure. Battling various beasts and progressing to harder and harder foes. Collecting and developing new monsters as you go.
This is where Puzzle & Dragons Gold differs, as the bulk of the game is in the PvP mode. You can choose to battle online, locally or even in single player practice battles.
You still build our a team of monster to take into battle, with each giving various bonuses based on the combos you create. However they can also have abilities activated during the 8 turn battle that can effect the overall match, you board, you opponents board and many other things.
This creates frantic experience as you try to read and react to your opponent, as they do the same to you. Each trying to gain an upper hand in the battle. With all of this set to a time limit for each phase, you barely get time to think.
One mechanic that feels really interesting is the way your HP gauge is depleted. Starting with 4 segments and no matter how much damage is delivered at any one time, you can only have one segment completely emptied.
This works well, as you could be destroyed by one bad turn, but not have that mean game over. It also means you need to think about your board and what damage you are trying to do. Could it be easier to save something for when they are down to the next segment? Or do all the damage on the current one. This adds a level of strategic thinking to the game, that works pretty well.
Even early on it seems there is a vast gap between those who have good experience of Puzzle & Dragons and those who may have only played casually, or come into it fresh. I have a little experience with the series and understand the need to make bigger combos, but I am getting destroyed online.
That’s not a complaint as such, as this is expected. Something you see in all online 1v1 games. It is what it is. The biggest difference between players comes from the speed in which the better players can make combos and how quickly they can manipulate a board. Whilst you are still thinkingm, they have made am 8 combo.
This is where the game needs more single player options. There is a ‘story’ mode that consists of two short stories centred around a tournament, which is clearly designed to introduce you to the vs system. It does this well, but it feels very shallow and short.
I was hoping we’d have the option of something a bit meatier, or a made that was more like the previous Puzzle & Dragon games, with the battle stuff added to it. However, the battle theme is the main idea here and is a replacement rather than an addition.
Puzzle & Dragons Gold is far from a bad game. If anything it is really good. It has solid core mechanics and the gameplay loop is fun. There is scope to improve your abilities to help you get better online. The online battles are quick and enjoyable, regardless of winning or losing.
The main issue is, that is makes me yearn for more of the traditional Puzzle & Dragons games. I’d pay a pretty penny for a remaster / remake of Puzzle & Dragons Z + Super Mario Bros Edition.
Alas, this is what we have though and I’d rather have this on my Switch, than no Puzzle and Dragons at all. So if you get the chance, do take a chance on this.