Ever played a game that was nearly great but didn’t quite make the cut? Puzzle Fighter is a lot like that. To immediately annihilate any expectations, I’ll cut to the chase – this isn’t like Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo. And yes, we all know that it was amazing and there really needs to be another game quite like it. Puzzle Fighter is more like a freemium version of it, but with fewer features. That’s a huge shame.

Puzzle Fighter offers up two different choices of game mode – Missions and PvP. PvP is very much the focus here with missions mostly there to supplement what’s going on when you’re trying to defeat other players. In either case, the idea is the same – match various gems in order to perform various attacks on your opponent, steadily reducing their health bar.

Matching gems is a concept we’re all very used to by now. In the case of Puzzle Fighter, special circular gems are what ‘activates’ the combo you’ve built up with regular colored gems. It’s possible to set things up so that you perform multiple attacks in a row with that clearly causing so much more damage than just one basic attack. It sounds pretty rewarding but a lot of the time, speed is more important than planning your moves wisely. In particular, in PvP, you’re often better off ‘jabbing’ your opponent often rather than working on building up some form of attack. This is the puzzle game equivalent of ‘button mashing’ really, but it works.

That’s unfortunate as it immediately takes away a lot of the strategy that Puzzle Fighter nearly offers. To further compound the issue, there’s the team building side of the game. By competing in various matches, you earn coins and cards. These two forms of currency work together to enable you to upgrade your skills and attacks for each character. Like in so many freemium games, the key here is to focus on only one or two characters rather than spread yourself too thinly.

Of course, you can also buy your way into such bonuses which is where many players are going to run into problems. Puzzle Fighter’s matchmaking system isn’t particularly well designed meaning you’ll quite easily find yourself up against some stiff opposition that can easily wipe you out in the space of a few moves.

You’ll find yourself retreating to the missions system where you undertake various fights against AI opponents in the hope of winning and earning yourself some precious cards. It’s all a little bit too grindy and things are slowed further by the fact that if you do so in quick succession, you’ll find yourself waiting hours to be able to be rewarded again.

As you progress, there’s a glimmer of strategic potential in the form of timer blocks. These come at you during PvP quite fast. You can’t use them until a number of moves have been completed first. Sometimes they get in the way but other times, you can use them to your advantage to set up an impressive combo. It’s stuff like that which Puzzle Fighter really needs more of, rather than a flimsy and uninspired freemium system.

You’ll enjoy moments of Puzzle Fighter but it’s rarely enough, and it’s certainly not enough to make you want to throw money at the situation. The basic formula might be correct, but, ultimately, Puzzle Fighter feels a little lazy at heart.