Samurai Puzzle Battle iPhone/ iPod Touch Review (Game of the Year Edition)
A fusion of Risk and Bejewelled, Samurai Puzzle Battle (Game of the Year Edition) is available on the App Store now for 0.59p and, if you're willing to put the time in to learn and get comfortable with all of it's aspects, will be a rewarding and excellent value game.
The game is split into 2 areas, the Map and the Puzzle areas. The map is straight forward and instantly recognisable to players of games like Risk or Civilisation. The map is split into islands of different sizes, with each island occupied by one or more Shogun. Each Shogun has a castle in which they live and from which units are created with Gold. Defeating al of the other Shoguns is the ultimate aim of the game and will see you crowned ultimate ruler of Japan.
Each island is split into sections and control of each section can bring bonuses (or damages) and increases how much gold you can earn from Jewel rounds. All players in the game move around the map in a turn-based way and to take control of an occupied section you need to fight the opponent units. Unlike Risk however where this is decided purely by throwing dice, in Samurai Puzzle Battle you fight via puzzle games, similar in concept to things like Bejewelled.
The Puzzle board is made up of 6 or more different symbols and the aim of the game is to line 3 or more of the same symbols up in a row. Doing this will explode the symbols, damaging your opponent or regenerating/healing yourself. Taking it in turns with your opponent who is also doing this, the first player to take wipe the other's energy out is the winner.
Attacking your opponent is done by matching up hand symbols for a physical attack or the mirrors for a magic attack. There is also a ki attack which is done by lining up the ying-yang symbols. The strength of each of your attacks is determined by how much energy you have in it's corresponding power meter. Strength determines the power of your physical attacks and Mana determines the strength of your magic attacks. To top up your power meter of each of these match up 3 or more blue masks for mana, green masks for strength and red masks to top up your life/energy. Clearly then during the process of a puzzle battle there is a balance between attacking your opponent, healing yourself, recharging your mana and strength.
Ok, so by this point it's getting quite complicated and deep. Now when you start to think about each unit having different abilities/perks for each attack or regeneration it gets even more complicated. If we take the Spider units in my current Campaign as an example, these will be immune to magical damager 21% of the time, double their own physical attack 38% of the time and will randomly block an attack 23% of the time. Regiments can be made up of up to 5 different units and each of them must be defeated to take over possession of that part of the map. As well as battles against other players you will compete in Puzzle Battles in various other scenarios. There are 8 slight variations, Gems being one (in which you match as many gems as possible in the time limit for gold) and Eliminator in which you must eliminate all of the designated symbols within the time limit.
As well as the main Campaign mode there is also an Arcade mode in which you can play all of the individual elements of the Campaign mode games by selecting them from a list. One Device Multiplayer also makes an appearance and enables you to play the game with another person rather than against the AI, simply by passing your iPod/iPhone between you.
As you have probably already picked up on, Samurai Puzzle Battle is far from a casual, pick up and play game. In all honesty it was genuinely quite tough understanding and communicating how this game works for this review. If you want a quick and easy puzzle game like bejewelled this probably isn't for you because there's a lot of strategy, a big learning curve and a lot to get your head around to be able to play this game properly. There are tutorials and FAQ/help sections within the game which make it fairly easy to learn the different aspects of the games but not everyone wants to have to do this kind of thing.
While the game isn't instantly accessible, or accessible for anyone who wants an easy, casual game, it could be great for anyone who is looking for a deeper, more complex game to get stuck into. If you like strategy games and puzzle games and are willing to spend some time with it, learning how to play and understanding it enough to formulate strategies, you'll get a lot out of this game. There is a relatively high replay value and even if you only play through the Campaign once I'd guess you're looking at 5 hours play minimum. A lot of the best games I've ever played have required some time and brain-power investment to get the most out of them. Samurai Puzzle Battle isn't exactly casual gaming, but if you're willing to invest time into it you'll be rewarded with a good game.