|I can't stop playing this game|
It's a game that started life as a humble Nintendo DS release and was largely ignored, despite wowing everyone that gave it a shot. On the PlayStation Network, it is a more natural fit. It's cheaper and more instantly accessible - unlike a limited release title, you're not going to have to hunt through multiple game shops to track down a copy.
On the surface it's a classical RPG, with a nice anime art style and a traditional, but entertaining plot. If you've ever played a Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy game you'll be quite comfortable with what you're given here. It's not a game that's open for exploration though, the characters move around a game world comprised of spaces - kind of like a great big board game. Occasionally they'll encounter a random battle, but for the most part it's possible to pick and chose your way through battles at your leisure. There's some side quests to complete if you really get into the game, but as enjoyable as it is, all of this is just there to funnel you into the puzzle-based combat.
The easiest way to think of that part of the game is as a match three puzzler on steroids. For each "battle" the game throws at you, you'll face off against a grid of enemy units. The goal is to break through the defencive line and damage the enemy hero calling the shots. You do this by lining up three units of the same kind in a vertical row. Lining them up horizontally turns them into a wall that can help deflect enemy attacks.
|Some of the harder battles will have you tearing your hair out|
There's a variety of units that are available to take into battle, and can be broken into traditional archetypes - there's the speedy-but-weaks, the burly-but-strongs, the magic users and the special utilities. You'll be limited to three basic unit types per battle, and with each victory, the units you use gain experience and levels - strengthening them up substantially. It's a system that caters for any number of different strategies, and one of the great joys of the game is tweaking the team to find an ideal balance.
Throw in special units that pack extra punch, but are expensive to replace and difficult to execute in-battle, and the combat gets an extra layer of depth. Throw in battles with special conditions (such as having to avoid damaging a special unit, or target one specific square to damage the enemy her), and the system shows just how genuinely deep it is.
The AI puts up a reasonable challenge given the number of computations it needs to make, and thinks pretty quickly to boot - there's the rare moment when things grind to a temporary halt as the AI considers a difficult situation, but they're few and far between.
|It's not the most original plot, but it's harmless, good, fun|
Even better than computer AI, though, is human intelligence, and for the first time, Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes features online multiplayer and leaderboards. 1v1 and 2v2 battles are supported, and this is the kind of skill based game that will have armchair strategist face off against friends for weeks to come.
With bright, charming visuals, classy soundtrack, and a huge number of units and armies to master, Might and Magic is the true successor for Puzzle Quest to be kind of this fascinating hybrid genre, and an absolutely essential PlayStation Network game. We really can't recommend it enough.