Review by SneakTheSnake
This puzzle collection doesn't fill a gap in the DS' library, but it's certainly a good addition.
The portable nature of the DS lends itself well to quick pick-up-and-play sessions, and this title from USA Today is no exception. Puzzle Craze features four fun, brain-busting diversions; while the experience is by no definition extraordinary, it's fun enough to stand well on its own.
Apparently, the content for this game was all originally published in newspapers, but having these several hundred puzzles on a cartridge makes the whole thing a lot more convenient. There are four puzzles types: Hitado is a number puzzle in which you must line 96 numbers in a grid whereby each number touches another one in sequence; Quick-Cross, a mini 4x4 crossword puzzle; Up and Down Words, in which the last word of one phrase connects as the first word in another phrase; and Word Roundup, a word search based on crossword clues and checklists of like-themed clues (for example, the word search will have nine US states, three tropical fruits and Benjamin Franklin's birthplace all in the same puzzle).
Each puzzle type brings in its own unique challenge. Hitado requires a good amount of puzzle acumen, much like Sudoku, and the word puzzles are slight variations on what we've seen before in other games but are unique enough to justify playing on their own. There are hundreds of each puzzle sample, and each puzzle can take several minutes to complete. Players earn stars by successfully completing puzzles, and earning stars raises the player's rank; higher ranks "move you up" to a bigger and better office in the USA Today headquarters, and you'll see your character ascend higher through the building as you go through the puzzles. It's a fun system - superfluous and kind of kooky, but it certainly doesn't hurt that it's there.
The graphics aren't much to speak of, as one can probably imagine, but the 16-bit graphics and straightforward interface make the game easy to navigate and easy on the eyes as well. The music is mostly to help set the mood, but the recorded easy listening and jazz samples are too short and poorly mixed. There isn't much else in the sound department to speak of, but the game looks and sounds very pleasant. Puzzle Craze puts the gameplay up front and center where it counts, and there are no distractions or hindrances.
If you're looking for something other than Sudoku - something with plenty of content - Puzzle Craze will fit well in your collection. The game is a little one-note, as these collections tend to be, but it's a fun game to play from time to time to relieve stress and get your brain working. If you see this one, I would recommend that you pick it up.
Product Release: USA Today: Puzzle Craze (US, 02/24/09)
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