Review: Puzzler Collection (Nintendo DS)

Puzzler Collection
Genre: Puzzles
Developer: Route 1
Publisher: Zoo Games
Release Date: July 29, 2008

I like puzzles.

Bebito says, “Well of course. You’re a girl. That’s all you play.”

I say, “Think whatever you need to, to make yourself feel more important.” (Read, less impotent.)

Actually, I like puzzles because I’m a pan-dimensionally intelligent creature who can’t stand sitting around waiting for things with nothing to do. I used to always carry around those big, clunking, books of puzzles to all my appointments, just because I really hadn’t gotten a DS yet. Sad, really.

Thanks to the bevy of new games geared towards increasing brain activity, I now carry a big, clunking Nintendo DS case full of games to tantalize my grey matter. This is why I brave the taunts by requesting to review such games.

The Puzzler Collection boasts over 2000 puzzles for me to occupy my time with, but is it any good? I thought so.

Modes:

There are four different types of puzzles for you to play.

Crosswords, which most informed people will know is a game played by answering clues with the right words, in the right horizontal or vertical, interlocking board.

Sudoku, an irritating game made up of either 6×6 or 9×9 grids in which you must place the right number in each empty cell, so that each row, each column, and each 2×3 or 3×3 block contains all of the numbers from 1-6 or 1-9 respectively. Previously to playing Puzzler, I held great contempt for anyone who enjoyed such games, but only because I could never figure out how to play it, and never actually completing a single puzzle, regardless of the level of ease.

Fitword, this game is a lot like a crossword, except you don’t have any clues, just empty boxes set up in the form of a crossword, and a list of words to insert in the grid. Your job is to determine which word fits where based solely on the number of letters in said word. It’s fun, really.

Word-finds, who doesn’t love these? You get a screen full of seemingly random letters, and another screen full of words. What do you do? Find the words!

There are five different methods of game play to choose from, it breaks down like this:

-Puzzler Tournament: In this mode you complete a “ladder” of puzzles consisting of all four types of puzzles. Each “ladder” consists of a combination of 20 different puzzles for you to attempt. You are allowed to pass a set number of these puzzles, if you’re too incompetent or lazy to finish them. Unfortunately, using passes causes the “Puzzle Master,” to dock your final rating. You must complete the “ladders” in order from Beginning, Intermediate, and Pro. Each subsequent “ladder” only being unlocked after you master the previous. It took me approximately 3 hours to complete the first ladder with no passes. Puzzle Master determined me a “Guru.” Yay?!

-Quick Blast: This is a mode that you can configure to your own, possibly devious desires. Give your game a name, set up the difficulty level (beginner, intermediate, or pro), set yourself a time limit (5 minute increments up to 30 minutes, max), then choose any or all of the four different puzzle types to include in your game. Each time you play through a round, you will receive a score based on your correct answers, timing, and number of hints used. You can save this configuration and play it regularly to attempt to increase your score, or you can change it at your whim, whichever you prefer.

-Simply Puzzle: Pick any of the four types of puzzles to play as you wish, at whatever skill level you prefer, whenever you want. See? Simple.

-Fast & Fun: Probably the most difficult of the modes, you must play a series of “mini-puzzles” at a set time limit, without making a single mistake. Basically, you are playing puzzles that have been about half-completed, but each puzzle gets increasingly harder to finish. You need to successfully complete 15 puzzles before you can advance to the next level, one mistake, and you start back at the beginning.

-Head to Head: Play against a friend in two separate modes. Sprint mode rewards your correct answers, Marathon mode rewards quick thinking. Thing is, it’s not local access, or Wi-Fi. You are supposed to literally take your turn, answering one question, and then physically pass the game to your opponent for the next turn. Time to get cuddly!

I almost forgot about Spell Outs! These are anagram based puzzles that give you bonus points during certain, random puzzles. After your puzzle is complete, certain letters will be highlighted and put in a separate screen for you to put in the proper order to gain your bonus points. During the beginner mode of Tournament play, I only came across this once, and since I’m too cool to read the instructions, I was utterly surprised and baffled by its appearance. I rallied well and managed to solve the puzzle in spite of my surprise.

Modes: Classic

Graphics
Well, it is a game of puzzles. It pretty much looks like a miniature version of a puzzling book. The only real problem I found was that during word finds, the letters were squeezed so closely together that it was hard, at times to select the correct letters, as the stylus was almost larger than they were. I would say this is not a game for the visually challenged, unless they happen to have a magnifying glass handy. It’s a lot of information to fit on two tiny little screens. There’s a background of calming color tones, with silhouettes of the puzzles and random floating letters, but, who’s paying attention to that anyways? You’re here to kick some puzzling butt!

Graphics: Bad

Sound
The background music sound like a mixture of porn-beats, and Jeopardy-style stimulating tones. Honestly, that’s the best way I know how to describe it. It’s relaxing and soothing, and yet, at the same time, encouraging.

After typing that out, I feel I rather need a lie down.

When clicking on a space or letter, you hear a barely-audible click to announce that you have selected something. It’s nothing as exciting as when you enter an answer and hear the rewarding blip! Clicking on the “hint” icon gives you a slight swishing sound as the hint is entered. All in all, not all that exciting or challenging.

Sound: Dreadful

Control/Game Play
This is another one of those games that you hold horizontally. Unfortunately, there’s no lefty-flip, but during some games you can click on the arrow in the upper left corner to have the two screens switch places. This is extremely helpful during Sudoku, as it allows you to focus on one small grid at a time, while seeing the relating grids on the opposite screen. If it weren’t for this feature, I would have never learned how to play the darned game, and now I am a master. *Insert evil laugh*

During Fitword, the screens automatically switch as you select a word to place. The game gives you a break by highlighting the only possible places where the word will fit, it’s just your job to click on the right space with your stylus to place it and find out if you are correct.

Crosswords allows you to play by selecting the column or row of a certain question, or by flipping screens, you can choose to play by selecting the question instead. Once your selection is made you are presented with an oh-so-tiny keyboard for you to click out your answers on, once again, letter size becomes an issue, as it is very easy to accidentally click the wrong key.

In Sudoku, you can click on an empty space and the small grid appears in your touch screen. The 6 or 9 numbers you can choose from are on the bottom, flanked on the right by a pencil icon, and the left, a pen. Choosing to use the pencil will allow you to temporarily place numbers, but you won’t know if they are correctly placed, unless you use the pen icon. If you are incorrect, the number will flash red, and your score is penalized. There are also arrows on the sides of the grid that you can click on to maneuver to corresponding grids. If it weren’t for this method of game play, I would still be banging my head with a club when presented with these games. It’s constructed to simply and easily guide any beginner into the game. I approve.

Control/Game Play: Mediocre

Replayability
With the number of play modes, coupled with the number of varying puzzles and difficulty levels, I would assume that the average player could play this game indefinitely. If you played the game enough, some of the crossword questions do repeat, but with the other puzzle types, placement is random and although you would find yourself playing the same words or numbers, they wouldn’t be in the same places.

Also, the Quick-Blast mode allows you to configure your own games at your own pace and skill. This allows you to constantly be attempting to master your previous score, and at any time you can change your configurations for a new challenge. Definitely a bonus.

Replayability: Classic

Balance
There will always be one type of puzzle that a person excels at more than another. That being said, there are 3 other types of puzzles to be mastered, and as the skill level goes up, so does the challenge. I like that in some of the other methods of play you are allowed to choose your own difficulty from the start, otherwise the Word-finds would have been boring me to sleep for hours. I’m still shaky with my newly found Sudoku skills, so having the ability to slowly step up the difficulty is key for me.

For $20 I’d say this game more than pays for itself in the amount of time you can actually play it, and learning new things is priceless!

Balance: Great

Originality
There’s a whole genre of puzzle games to choose from. As far as originality goes, this game seems quite simply like a compact, interactive book. There’s not much more to it than putting puzzles that would be on a page on a screen and giving you a stylus instead of a pencil, but that’s the appeal, right? Thousands of puzzles in one little cartridge. No more boring waits at the dental office! Each puzzle can be paused and saved to be finished at a later date so if you happen to be called on time, or your bus pulls up to your stop, you won’t lose your progress. Granted, the same could be said for placing your pencil in a book to mark the place……but, we’re not talking about books here, we’re talking about games!

Originality: Poor

Addictiveness
For hard-core puzzlers, this is a must-have game. The variety and skill options are just too much to pass up. There is for most people a desire to increase your abilities and knowledge, so it is natural to keep returning to better your score. For everyone else, they can keep looking at the shiny, sparkling objects in their peripheral vision. I know for sure that I’m on my way to becoming a Sudoku master, and no one’s going to get in my way, except maybe my alter-ego, but you’ll read more about her in a bit.

Addictiveness: Decent

Appeal Factor
I believe I just wrote something about hard-core puzzle fans, but I’m not quite sold on the idea that this is the only market. I mean, really, who doesn’t like a good crossword now and again? Also, Sudoku is becoming more and more popular at an alarming rate as people are finding that playing it makes them seem pretentious and arrogant. Isn’t that what everyone is striving for? It’s my opinion that if people aren’t envying me, I’m doing it wrong. It’s also my opinion that everyone should share my opinions.

Appeal Factor: Above Average

Miscellaneous
Now is where we come to the fun stuff (as if you weren’t having fun already.)

I found myself rather disappointed to find that the Head to Head mode of play had to be played by passing the DS back and forth. I also found myself rather alone at the time I was playing it, so it was up to my alter-ego, Princess “I’m much more awesome than you” to fill the seat of my opponent.

The game went something like this:

Me: Hey, look, I answered something.

Princess: Well, give it to me so I can hurry up and kick your butt!

Me: You don’t need to be so damned bossy all the time.

Princess: Stop petting the cat and get over here, it’s your turn again!

Me: You know I don’t even know why I hang out with you.

Princess: Look, I just won! I’m so awesome!

Me: Not again…

Miscellaneous Rating: Mediocre

The Scores
Modes: Classic
Graphics: Bad
Sound: Dreadful
Control and Gameplay: Mediocre
Replayability: Classic
Balance: Great
Originality: Poor
Addictiveness: Decent
Appeal Factor: Above Average
Miscellaneous: Mediocre
Final Rating: Decent Game

Short Attention Span Summary
The gist of it is, if you like puzzles, you’ll like this game. I can’t imagine that anyone who is interested in playing this game will be bothered by the lack of entertaining graphics or strange quasi-porn music. My guess is the focus will be strictly on the puzzles, it’s a friggin’ puzzling game isn’t it?! The wide variety of gaming modes which you can tailor to your own desires is a perk that most puzzlers would enjoy, as if you happen to be addicted to the New York Time’s puzzles, you don’t really get much control over the play, and you definitely don’t get to hear the satisfying blip when you get an answer correct. I just wish there would be a catchy song at the end. Something sung in a bot-voice, maybe including cake….they can’t all be Portal, can they?

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