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Magic: The Gathering—Puzzle Quest isn’t as addictive as its component parts

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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 Gathering—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 isn’t as addictive as I thought it would be, because the fusion doesn’t quite work. You play as one of Magic’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 Magic‘s five colors.

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Your deck is made of 10 unique cards, but you don’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 creature’s behavior is determined by its type, such as “attacker” or “defender,” 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 you’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, that’s not especially necessary as the story mode’s quests provide generous rewards, giving you some resources just for winning the fight and even more for completing bonus objectives, like destroying your opponent’s creatures or restricting yourself to only casting a few spells. But “story mode” is a generous term, as your challenges are haphazardly strung together without a semblance of plot beyond a brief description of whoever or whatever you’re fighting.

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

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