Friday, March 30, 2007

Is it a game or is it an alternative reality?

I downloaded the puzzle quest demo last night because I had seen it highly recommended on several blogs Tobold is a fan, Bill Harris is a fan, Spencer from Siliconera is a fan). The game seems to be primarily designed for handheld gaming devices (PSP, DS) so the graphics are pretty basic but the format is quite novel. It is an RPG with story and character progression but combat is based on a tile swapping puzzle game. Combat takes place on a board covered with tiles of different shapes and colours. Players take turns to swap tiles in order to get three of a kind in a row horizontally or vertically. Getting three in a row has beneficial effects such as charging a mana pool, increasing cash or damaging your opponent. Mana (of which there are four kinds) can be used to cast spells which benefit you or damage your enemy or affect the game board in some way. Play continues until one opopnents life is drained. It makes for an engrossing strategic challenge immersed in a fun RPG format and everybody seems to love it. Everybody that is except me. While I admire the novelty of the game I must admit that abstract puzzles are just not my thing. I like my battles to involve guns and swords and at least some tenuous simulation of reality. It got me thinking about what different people get out of gaming. For me it is very important that a game offer me an alternative reality that I can escape into. A game that offers an interesting distraction (like TETRIS for example) is not enough if it doesn't give that virtual reality feel. I guess that is why I like first person games so much. I am not averse to a bit of thinking. I enjoy RTS games for example but I prefer Rome TW to Age of Empires because the gameworld is so much more believable. The current fashion for casual games indicates that there is a lot of people out there who don't think like me. I guess I am not surprised that the general public is more interested in an entertaining diversion than a fully immersive life engrossing gaming experience. I am a bit surprised however that my tastes seem to be so much out of line with so many other seriously committed gamers. Everybody else seems to get Puzzle Quest but I just don't. Oh well I guess it takes all sorts.

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