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Neopets Puzzle Adventure Box Art
GENRE
Puzzle RPG
DEVELOPER
Infinite Interactive
PUBLISHER
Capcom
NUMBER OF PLAYERS
1-2
WI-FI ENHANCED
No
DS COMPATIBLE
No
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Neopets Puzzle Adventure

Neopets Puzzle Adventure is a game set in the world of Neopia, a popular online community where players can create their own Neopet avatar and engage in a wide variety of activities. Available on both Wii and DS, Neopets Puzzle Adventure is also a hybrid Puzzle RPG that draws its inspiration from the surprise 2007 hit Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords. This is no coincidence, as the developer behind Neopets is none other than Puzzle Quest developer Infinite Interactive. This mishmash of cute anime avatars, role playing, and board gaming works well enough, although the Wii version is hampered by an array of frustrating technical issues.

visuals

From an artistic standpoint, the game looks great. The Neopets avatars are taken right out of the website and they are full of detail and color. The same goes for the landscape, which is replete with atmosphere charm. Much as Puzzle Quest did, the characters and places in the game prove memorable.

The game’s technical execution is another matter. Of primary concern is game’s graphical aspirations, which are quite low. As was the case with the Puzzle Quest games, animations are absent, special effects are understated, and cutscenes are little more than static cutouts over a static background.

This simplistic design might be forgivable if the game actually ran smoothly, but it doesn’t. The worst offender is the framerate, which is choppy both in and out of combat and is complemented by weird hiccupping as the game struggles to keep up with a simple movement along the map. Add in long load times and some weird (if momentary) graphical bugs, and Neopets comes off like a game that didn’t get nearly enough testing. A game with graphics this simplistic should not run this badly.

audio

It is an ominous sign when the main menu appears amid complete silence, devoid of music or sound effects. The rest of the game does little to compensate, serving up a parade of musical tracks and sound effects that are serviceable enough but are largely forgettable. In fact, some of the sound effects are so bad they border on grating. There is no voicework.

gameplay

As stated, Neopets Puzzle Adventure is a Puzzle RPG. At the outset, players choose a character with specific character traits. Throughout the game, the character can earn experience, level up, acquires new skills, develop new abilities, acquire weapons, items and equipment, learn special moves (via captured animals called PetPets), take on a variety of main quests and sidequests, and play minigames. The game is full of things to do and is conceivably worth hours and hours of entertainment.

While the game is broadly similar to Puzzle Quest, the actual puzzle game is somewhat different. Whereas Puzzle Quest used a “match three” game like Bejeweled, Neopets employs the time-tested game of Reversi, known more popularly as Othello. The object of the game is to earn points by flipping enemy pieces; this can be done by surrounding those pieces on two sides with one’s own pieces. Points are earned depending on the quality of the moves and other factors, and the side with the most points at the end wins. The game is simple enough in theory, although for the novice it can be a rude awakening against an AI that is pretty good.

The core combat is spiced up by special abilities, equipment, and board tiles. Some abilities and equipment, for example, flip one or more pieces, while others inflict status effects or other changes. Likewise, some board titles give scoring bonuses, while others give stat bonuses or even inflict extra damage.

The game is played using the Wii remote alone, using the IR to navigate menus and engage in combat. The IR works well enough, thanks to large icons, decent IR sensitivity, and the absence of time limits. The IR does, however, suffer from some aggravations, owing largely to the technical hiccups mentioned earlier. Moving along the map, for example, can be a chore because the game will stutter while buffering up new locations.

Sadly, the technical problems of the game overshadow just about everything in the game. The hiccups that happen so often -- whether it between combat moves, map movement, dialogue, or in and out of combat -- are annoying at best, maddening at worst. Because the pace of the game is relaxed, none of it is fatal, but it deals a serious blow to the overall quality of the package and makes the game feel rushed and broken. If there is a silver lining, it’s that these problems are apparently absent from the DS version of the game, which also has the additional advantage of being $10 cheaper than its console counterpart.

One final note: there have been some complaints online about the game text being too small. (This complaint was also leveled at the Wii version of Puzzle Quest.) We playtested the game using a 20-inch standard definition television running component cables and found the text readable, although it is worth noting that we were situated no more than a few feet from the TV. Those who like to sit several feet away from a smaller TV may find the font to be more of a hassle, even some who have HDTVs.

multiplayer

The game can be played competitively locally between two players using characters cultivated in the game. There is, however, no online component.

overall

Back in 2007, Wii owners were served a shoddy port of a good game in Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords. Once again, Wii owners are served up a broken version of an Infinite Interactive title. The Wii version of Neopets Puzzle Adventure is technically baffling, with broken framerates, aggravating hiccups, and other programming problems that really damage the experience. Neopets fanatics pining for a fix will do better to look to the superior (and cheaper) DS version rather than this rushed Wii project.



final score 5.0/10





WRITER INFORMATION
Staff Avatar Joshua Johnston
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"Round 1! Fight!"


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