The puzzle genre seems so minuscule these days. Much of the gaming press chosses not to give many of these games any spotlight and they all seem to be released sporadically on the handhelds as forgettable titles or as downloadable titles that only interest gamers really into the genre. This all makes sense though since even though most are so fun and executed without any noticeable flaws, they are always extremely simplistic. I’m a fairly big fan of this genre though so even though I know the subject of puzzle games is going to bore most of you guys, I still think it’s interesting to point out what I found wrong with many of the puzzle games I’ve played.
That’s the Only Incentive?
Look, I’m not asking for an extra story mode because that definitely would be ill-fitting in some cases, but there’s no denying that most puzzle games lack any sort of longevity other than just being addicted to one or two modes it offers, which is usually just arcade mode and two-player vs mode. For fans of the genre, this isn’t a problem since there are people who’s still playing Tetris ten years later. However, for the rest of us, we need something more substantial.
This is probably why Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords was such a big hit when it was released. Complementing the puzzle gameplay was a basic yet interesting medeival lore full of trolls and towns that you got to upgrade and maintain. Each victory in puzzle contributed to your progress in this story and in the customization of your town and your character. I think more puzzle games should have features like these, especially since some of my favorite puzzle games do indeed do this e.g. Bubble Bobble, Tetris Attacked, Crush…
The puzzle gameplay alone should not be the only incentive to keep playing the game, no matter how brilliant the gameplay is. This is why I’ve never been that big fan of Tetris, Bejeweled, Columns, Lumines… I loved the gameplay but after an hour, I don’t see the point of playing any longer. Developers of these games need to stop assuming that great gameplay is the only thing that matters.
I Don’t Like Lotteries
But that doesn’t mean developers should overlook the importance of gameplay. In the puzzle genre, one tiny little thing can make or break the game for me, and that’s being able to think about what to do next strategically. Tetris’ design is brilliant because as soon as you put down a block, you could see what block is upcoming in the side screen. Thus, a gamer aware of the entire screen is given plenty of opportunities to think things through.
And then we have something like Puzzle Quest… There are no hints as to what’s coming next. It’s like playing the game blindfolded at times, or going to Las Vegas and playing a lottery that favors the dealer. Luck should not be a big aspect of puzzle games and yet, a lot of these puzzle games are guilty of this, even Lumines, though in that game, it’s not too noticeable.
We’re No Longer in the NES Era!
I really love the gameplay of Lumines. The way you have to match the blocks in accordance with the rhythm of the music is simply incredible. However, there’s a huge design flaw of that game: no level select?
There are so many puzzle games out there that you have to start the game from the very beginning whenever you start up. I understand that the developers are assuming since the gameplay is so addicting that we won’t mind playing the game over and over again for years and years, but the fact is, I do mind. I mind a lot. I want my progress to constantly be saved and I want a more streamlined experienced. We’re in 2009; not 1989. I don’t want to repeat everything I’ve done before and I want more than two simple modes.
This genre seriously needs to provide much more content, much more flexibility, and a much more user-friendly interface.