Puzzle Expedition

3.0 Overall Score

Written by on March 4, 2011 in

If games and movies have taught me anything it is that if you’re are going to be an archaeologist you’d best have children who can come searching for you once you inevitably go missing.  It happened to old Indy’s dad in years past and in Puzzle Expedition for the Nintendo DS the father of our de facto heroine, Anna, finds himself in a similar spot.  Worry not, though, because Anna has recruited the help of Ben on her expedition to track down dear old dad.

Arbitrary story elements aside, Puzzle Expedition is a puzzle game for the Nintendo DS from publisher Mumbo Jumbo that originally debuted on the PC.  The core gameplay in Puzzle Expedition involves getting Anna and Ben from the starting point to a exit point before progressing to the next stage.  Standing in their way, though, are a series of high ledges, pits, and other hazards that must be navigated by strategically sliding blocks around the stage.  To accomplish this the player must continually switch back and forth between controlling Anna and Ben sliding blocks to open the path for the other character.  Each character behaves exactly the same but is fairly limited in their movement abilities.  For instance a character can climb up or down the height of a block but can only climb down a hight of 1.5 blocks and cannot climb down any hight greater than that.

This task is further complicated as the game progresses by hazards like fire and breaking floors and with tools like switches, teleports, and magnets.  Beyond a handful of training levels the overall difficulty of the stages range from difficult to devilish.  While the high difficulty level isn’t necessarily a bad thing the complete lack of any kind of hint system and the limit of three level skips for the entire game can quickly turn a challenge into an infuriating wall. Additionally the puzzles are so specific in their solutions that one slight wrong move can require a complete restart of the level.  In fact it is not uncommon to have to restart a level several times over even after getting an idea of what the solution is.  This can be somewhat relieved by the inclusion of a quicksave feature but only if you happened to save before making a mistake.

Presentation-wise, Puzzle Expedition is a fairly good looking game.  While the character sprites and textures on the various physical structures could have been cut-and-pasted from any other game of this type the backgrounds of each level are nicely detailed with subtle touches like moving waterfalls and flickering flames.  The variety of these backgrounds also help to alleviate the feeling of traipsing through the same corridors again and again common to games of this type.

Overall, Puzzle Expedition is a game that had the potential to be great but a handful of poor design decisions render it somewhere between frustrating and unplayable for all but the most dedicated of puzzle fans.  Indeed the simple addition of hints or a generous skip function could have improved this game by leaps and bounds.  Without these, though, it is hard to recommend much in Puzzle Expedition.

A copy of Puzzle Expedition was received by The Married Gamers for review and evaluation.

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Author: Tylor Long View all posts by

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