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I spent far too many hours playing various versions of Puzzle Quest on my DS, and more time still playing Magic: The Gathering. So when I downloaded Magic: The Gatheringā€”Puzzle Quest, I had the same mix of excitement and fear over its potentially destructive grasp that I felt as a straight-edge teen having my first drink. For better and worse, the mashup of collectible card game and match-three-puzzle-powered role-paying isnā€™t as addictive as I thought it would be, because the fusion doesnā€™t quite work. You play as one of Magicā€™s signature characters, fighting opponents by using both your own inherent abilities, powered by collecting Planeswalker gems, and a deck of cards that are cast by matching sets of three or more gems corresponding to Magicā€˜s five colors.


Your deck is made of 10 unique cards, but you donā€™t decide how many copies of each are included, and you only have some wiggle room when it comes to what types of cards you can use, forcing players to utilize a mix of creatures, spells, and support cards. Rather than having the freedom to decide when your creatures attack or block (as you would when playing the card game), your creatureā€™s behavior is determined by its type, such as ā€œattackerā€ or ā€œdefender,ā€ and which of the three slots on the board it occupies. Because you can only have three creatures on the board, playing the same one twice doubles its power and toughness rather than producing a unique copy, which produces dramatic shifts in the balance between opponents. What card you play next is determined by the order in your hand, so you need to pay close attention to what youā€™re drawing.

The game is free to download, with players able to purchase more of the in-game currency used to level up your characters and obtain more cards. Luckily, thatā€™s not especially necessary as the story modeā€™s quests provide generous rewards, giving you some resources just for winning the fight and even more for completing bonus objectives, like destroying your opponentā€™s creatures or restricting yourself to only casting a few spells. But ā€œstory modeā€ is a generous term, as your challenges are haphazardly strung together without a semblance of plot beyond a brief description of whoever or whatever youā€™re fighting.


The biggest problem is that the game just feels incomplete. You can open duplicate cards when you buy packs, but thereā€™s currently nothing you can do with them. Thereā€™s also not a convenient way to see what cards you have compared to the entirety of whatā€™s available, and a promised competitive event mode is still pending. As it is, the gameā€™s fun for killing a few minutes when traveling, but hasnā€™t managed to fully hook me.