Developer: Infinite Interactive
Publisher: D3 Publisher
In the era of mega-blockbusters for geeks, it’s hard to tell whether someone likes a property, is a hardcore fan, or merely happens to watch movies in the summer. For example, because I’ve read comic books from Marvel and DC, I find myself in a more devoted category than the average super-hero enthusiast today, but I can’t compare to the über fans who know every single detail about their favourite costumed titans. In the same vein, while I find most puzzle games entertaining enough once in a while, I rarely play them for hours on end. I suppose if you combined these two semi-passions of mine, you might end up with one bona fide infatuation, which is exactly what D3 Publisher has done with Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign.
At its base, Marvel puzzle Quest: Dark Reign is a free-to-play match-three game. The goal is to defeat every baddie in a series of duels involving multicoloured tiles. Place three tiles of the same colour in a row, either horizontally or vertically, and they disappear from the board, increasing your ability points (AP) and inflicting damage on the enemy. Align four tiles of the same colour, and the whole row or column vanishes, earning you bonus AP and causing even more damage to your adversary. Finally, if you manage to group five tiles of the same colour, you get an extra turn and a “critical strike” tile appears as sort of a wild card or damage booster.
What differentiates Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign from other match-three games (that aren’t rip-offs) is your AP. When you gather enough points, you can use your character’s special power to unleash hell on your enemy. This is where the “Marvel” part of the equation comes in. As you progress through the game, you get to collect various super-heroes like Thor, Spider-Man, or any of the X-Men. No pesky movie-licensing issues here. Each hero comes with his or her own set of abilities somewhat related to the comics, making it a matter of strategy which three characters you’ll team up before any given bout.
Not all super-heroes are created the same, you see. At the start of Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign, you’re given measly one-star heroes like Iron Man Mach 35 or Classic Hawkeye (poor Hawkeye). As you advance in your campaign, you’ll sometimes receive characters with two or three stars, such as Thor and Doctor Doom. They’re more powerful, as you might have guessed, but require more resources to level up. Only the best, luckiest, or most obsessive players eventually win the legendary four-star heroes: X-Force Wolverine and Invisible Woman.
To collect all these allies, you need to buy roster slots, and to buy roster slots, you need Hero points. This is where Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign makes its money. You’ll gain access to new characters at a much faster rate than you’ll acquire Hero points, fueling the urge to get out your credit card for some extra points. In addition, you can level up your team with ISO-8, which you can also purchase with real money. However, ISO-8 is so readily available in the game, I personally wouldn’t waste a dime on the stuff. When pitted against strong teams during an event, just tune out that little voice in the back of your head saying, “If only my Wolverine were stronger…”
Another way Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign tries to snatch a few bucks from you is by selling special packs to heal your team after a match. Otherwise, only time (and lots of it) can restore your characters’ health meter. Fans of the Puzzle Quest series may find this frustrating, as previous instalments allowed you to pull all-nighters without having to cough up your hard-earned cash like Tony Stark on a bender. I personally avoid the healing-for-money trap by limiting myself to a few matches here and there instead of engaging in prolonged periods of play. Also, Spider-Man and Classic Black Widow, who, for some reason, looks like Black Canary, have powerful healing abilities that, if used judiciously, can actually increase your team’s health points during a fight.
Marvel puzzle Quest: Dark Reign is a great free-to-play title for the tablet or mobile phone, allowing you to jump in for a quick battle once in a while. Every month, D3Publisher adds new content and new heroes, increasing the variety of teams you face without your having to buy perfunctory patches. Even if you decide to purchase a few Hero points, the price is quite reasonable for the value you receive. Really, if you’re a fan of the genre, I can’t think of a reason not to give the game a try, unless you lack self-control and know you’ll end up emptying your bank account to power up Bag-Man Spider-Man.