A Puzzle Worth Solving
It would be easy to dismiss Knights of Puzzelot as “just” another match-3 puzzle game, and I Yet while the core mechanics aren’t all that different from anything else you might have already played, if you dig a little deeper you’ll find a surprisingly addictive little puzzle game/RPG hybrid.
Things aren’t looking too good after a really big and nasty dragon goes on a rampage and torches the entire kingdom of Puzzelot. Fortunately you’re around to fix it all up. As one of the Knights of Puzzelot you’ll be able to explore dangerous caverns and spooky dungeons, stumble upon loot, fight monsters, and earn gold.
The gold you earn is required for rebuilding the kingdom, and many of the structures you’ll be putting back together will allow you to spend your earnings on upgrading your equipment as well. However, unlike some other RPG/match-3 combinations out there, you won’t be solving puzzles for every single task. Instead you’ll only have to worry about matching up swords, shields, gold, and so on when you’re fighting monsters – and trying to open the occasional locked chest.
The fact that you don’t have to start matching tiles for every little thing actually made it easier for me to stay invested in Knights of Puzzelot. Not only has it kept me from getting burned out on puzzles, but it also makes things like building and item upgrades much less of a pain. All I do is select what I want to do (so long as I have the proper resources saved up) and the game does the rest, usually on its own time while I’m off doing something else.
There’s also quite a bit of loot available to find and upgrade, with the added ability to create all new items if you’ve got the right stuff on-hand. Equipping all of the gear form a particular set will also give your character a new (and inevitably fancy-looking) outfit, which won’t always be optimal stats-wise but definitely looks cool.
I think my favorite touch has got to be the ability to see your Game Center friends’ progress. A little bubble will be displayed over a dungeon to show you how far they’ve made it, and if you go inside you’ll actually see their exhausted avatar along the path. I have to say, running past my friends like that and knowing I’ve just put them to shame always brings a smile to my face.
It’s unfortunate, though, that some of Knights of Puzzelot‘s potential goes unrealized – or rather that it gets hamstrung by in-app purchase nonsense. Upgrading equipment is a cool addition to the game and can be very rewarding if you’re able to get everything set up, but most of the big upgrades require premium currency. This in itself wouldn’t be a problem if the game actually gave you a chance to earn premium currency in the first place, but in all the time I’ve spent playing I’ve yet to earn anything other than regular gold.
The game also uses one of my least favorite monetization techniques: all items and gold earned in a dungeon are completely forfeit if you’re defeated, but you can pay extra to continue. The difficulty isn’t so bad as to make it feel like extortion (like a certain other puzzly dragon game that comes to mind), but it can still be really irritating to find a couple of nice items during a run and then lose them all when you get to the boss.
Don’t let the whole match-3/RPG hybrid thing turn you off: Knights of Puzzelot is definitely a good time and can be quite difficult to stop playing. Some freemium shenanigans get in the way at times, but they’re not significant enough to ruin the fun.