|System: Wii||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Infinite Interactive||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Capcom||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Dec. 24, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Neopets is one of those all-consuming activities kids have rallied to in legions; its almost a lifestyle for some. The Neopets website is designed to allow folks to create and nurture Neopets, evolve and adorn them, and by playing various on-site mini-games, kids can earn Neopoints for use in customizing their experience. Suffice it to say, whenever something new comes down the pike thats Neopets-related, fans are eager to check it out. With Neopets: Puzzle Adventure, it seems Capcom hopes to cash in on the growing popularity of the Wii, but is this extension of the franchise worth your gaming dollars?
Like Cradle of Rome, Neopets: Puzzle Adventure takes a simple gameplay concept and tacks on an objective. In actuality, youll merely be playing through dozens of puzzle battles based on the Reversi (also known as Othello) gameplay formula. There is a story here, yet the plot makes little sense and is mere window dressing for the puzzle gameplay.
You begin your adventure by selecting a Neopet to play as. The variety includes Grarrl, Kacheek, Kourga, and others. Youll also be given the option to choose their color and gender. Once youve named your Neopet, you can then choose to play either the Story Mode or Instant Action. As its name implies, Instant Action allows you to play a few, quick puzzle battles, or you can opt to tinker with mini-games, unlocked via the Story Mode.
The Story Mode offers the main adventure and starts you out in the land of Shenkuu. Youre presented with an overworld map, and a golden question mark always directs you to the area you need to go to next. For the most part, Neopets: Puzzle Adventure is a linear-gameplay experience, though you can stop to cook, shop, or catch Pet-pets along the way. There are also myriad side quests, but theyre mostly just more puzzle battles with bits of dialogue and story attached to them.
Upon entering Skenkuu, the first order of business is defeating a Blobagus thats gotten loose in a local teahouse. You run into a Scorchio who enlists you to scare off the Blobagus, and though youre fresh in town, your character is all too eager to help. The game, from start to finish, pushes you from one needy Neopet to another, and with almost every new location you travel to, youll engage in puzzle battles.
Battles are fairly basic, but they offer a surprising level of challenge, considering the young audience the game is likely aimed at. The general idea of combat is to trap your enemys tokens between your own. Like Reversi, youre presented with a grid-like play board (of six-by-six, eight-by-eight, or ten-by-ten squares), and each combatant takes turns adding tokens to the board. Pet-pets and equipment eventually play into the equation and will offer special abilities during battles. For instance, a Graffle (Pet-pet) will allow you to change any white space to a purple space purple spaces offering extra points when placing your tokens upon them; a Juma, however, lets you remove any two tokens from the board without using up your turn. You can only use a Pet-pet once per battle, though as you level up your Neopet, youll be able to bring additional Pet-pets with you into combat. Swords and shields act in much the same way, allowing you to protect tokens for a certain number of turns or choose tokens to be changed to your color, etc.
A number of other considerations also factor in during battles, such as shockwaves and extra-points squares. If you manage to trap your opponent by placing a token on a shockwave marker, youll create a schism that will randomly change one of your opponents tokens to your color. If that token manages to trap more of your opponents tokens, it will create a chain, thus the shockwave.
Battles are a nice slice of pick-up-and-play fun, and though the A.I. isnt quite as ruthless as that of Puzzle Quest, Neopets: Puzzle Adventure might prove to be a bit much for the really young Wii crowd. That said, those who stick with it are sure to learn some excellent strategy basics, and the puzzle battles are undeniably addictive. However, moving from map location to map location is mostly an arbitrary process, and even diehard Neopets fans will likely find the story and dialogue simply an extraneous addition to what could otherwise be a puzzle game based on anything, really.