Right off the bat I have to admit that my perception of Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition was entirely different to what I felt after actually sitting down and playing it. Puzzle & Dragons was a franchise that I knew about in the back of my head but never really paid any attention to. After all it’s a generic Bejeweled, come Candy Crush tile-matching puzzler right? WRONG! Well maybe not entirely. Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition pairs the simplistic concept of the over-used puzzle format with a moderately robust RPG mechanic and then smashes them together with a theme filled with the habitual Mushroom Kingdom residents.
Yes you guessed it. Bowser has once again kidnapped Princess Peach and you have to rescue her. Although this time around strange orbs have started appearing throughout the Mushroom Kingdom and have been leveling up Goomba’s, Koopa Troopa’s… pretty much all the prominent foes throughout the Mario universe. These orbs are essentially the basis of the games actual mechanics. There are six different orb types scattered along the screen that need to be matched. The Fire Flower (Fire), Penguin Suit (Water), Super Leaf (Earth), Poison Mushroom (Dark), Super Star (Light) and Heart (Life) are the different variants that are used to combat against your enemies. Each adversary you encounter has a primary attribute, some a secondary, that relate to the orbs found at your disposal. You navigate the different orbs with your stylus with only a few seconds to freely move it around. Orbs can be moved freely across the screen with no limitation as to where you can place them. The idea is to, with one orb, move the rest around and configure lines with three or more matching Orbs. Extensive combos will increase your overall attack power, add health and earn 1-Ups, dependent on the orbs related to the combo.
Those are the basic puzzle elements. The RPG side of the game requires you to construct a team consisting of a leader, four subs (converted enemies) and a power player. Each team members attribute(s) is unique as to how enemies are attacked. A Koopa Troopa with a water attribute will fare well against an enemy with a fire element. Things do progress quite quickly and as attributes, power levels and limitations increase so does the time that you’ll need to take to evaluate your team for a given level. Added to this each team character is a power up that executes a special attack but can only be used once charged with orbs. To prevent things from becoming boring, there are various paths to choose in the form of warp pipes, which allow you to unlock power-up or team members. You are also able to combine team members in order to accelerate the level-up process for those more difficult levels. This brings in a vital balancing act between powering up stronger characters and maintaining characters that may be more effective against a specific adversary.
The visuals and environments are what you would expect from a Mario themed title. Plenty of warp pipes, mushrooms and stars make up the worlds which you navigate though. The map layout is similar to that first seen in Super Mario Bros. 3 and the New Super Mario series, progressing level by level in a themed world. A grassland, underground, desert, ocean and… yes you guessed it… Bowser themed world are all included with a total of eight challenging levels.
But wait… There’s more…
In addition to of Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition, the game package includes Puzzle & Dragons Z, a standalone game that focuses more on the Puzzle & Dragons storyline while sharing the same mechanics as the Super Mario Bros. Edition. Think along the lines of Dragon Quest and Pokémon as far as navigation and plot are concerned.You, as a character, finds yourself in Draconia, a world where both humans and dragons coexist. A strange, presence is tearing Draconia apart piece by piece. Literally piece by piece… puzzle piece by… puzzle piece… yeah… pretty original right? It is up to you to restore this torn apart world through completing various battles. Puzzle & Dragons Z is a fresh take on the well received Japanese franchise. The game, as a whole is easier than the Mario Edition and is filled with a variety of characters with quirky, comedic undertones.
As a package Puzzle & Dragons Z + Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition gives you plenty bang for your buck. Don’t write this package off as yet another generic tile-matching puzzler, it’s far more than that. It’s challenging, addictive, great value for money and has great replay value, especially throughout the later levels.