Puzzle & Dragons Z / Super Mario Edition Review
You may come up short of breath trying to say “Puzzle & Dragons Z + Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition” aloud, but that’s the only aspect of the experience you’ll find even remotely short. The bundle, which includes an enhanced version of GungHo’s blockbuster game and a Super Mario-themed variant, is an incredible value for match-three enthusiasts, offering a pair of games that easily stand on their own.
The overall mechanics in Puzzle & Dragons are simple: Match orbs by dragging them across the screen to attack enemy monsters. If you’re able to generate long combos, you deal more damage than simple matches. Both P&D Z and the Super Mario Bros. edition share a basic skeleton; orbs are the same colors, you capture creatures and upgrade them, and leaders with passive skills and allies with active abilities are present in each game. As GungHo demonstrates, however, that framework leaves plenty of room to create a pair of games with individual identities.
Puzzle & Dragons Z adds a Pokémon-style overworld and a narrative to the original game. Returning players will notice that their favorite collectable beasts are back, but the upgrade system has been tweaked to support the overarching puzzle-piece theme (bad guys are yanking puzzle-piece-shaped chunks of the world off the planet). Defeated enemies drop puzzle pieces of their own, and they’re used to evolve your menagerie in a simple minigame. Defeated foes also drop eggs, which are hatched at your HQ. It’s a little annoying to have to trudge back home to see what they contain, but the ability to fast travel minimizes the hassle.
The Mario edition replaces everything with the franchise’s familiar trappings. The on-foot action is swapped with a Super Mario 3-style map, the soundtrack is loaded with familiar tunes, and you’re joined by a growing squad of reformed villains. The game is generous with continues, and its lack of free-to-play elements means that you can keep trying to beat trickier sections without worrying about paying or waiting for a bar to recharge. And both games do get tricky, with enemies spewing a variety of status effects that require on-the-fly strategy changes.
I’ve been a fan of the original Puzzle & Dragons since it came out, and I think it’s finally met its match. The stories in Puzzle & Dragons Z + Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition (whew!) are a bit hokey, but both games are so strong overall that I may be able to finally clean out some space on my iPad.