Snap Judgment: Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes

Having received my copy yesterday, I've only been able to put a few hours into Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes for DS. However, I can already tell that it's going to become an obsession, at the expense of things like other games and interacting with my family. Critter Crunch developer Capy has created an incredibly engrossing game that melds the best aspects of both strategy RPGs and puzzle games.
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At first, the game may seem like an open Puzzle Quest ripoff, in that it uses matching puzzles as the central mechanic for RPG-style battles. However, while Puzzle Quest essentially uses a puzzle game as a metaphor for RPG combat, Clash of Heroes' puzzle engine is simultaneously a competent strategy RPG battle system. The objects you manipulate on screen are your units: soldiers of various types who attack when lined up in vertical groups of three, or form defensive walls when lined up horizontally.

That's the basis of the game engine, but in true strategy-game style, it gets complicated. Attacks don't launch immediately, instead charging for a number of turns. And when they do launch, they damage any enemy units in their path before they can chip away at the competitor's HP. Each type of unit, found throughout the game, has different special abilities. Certain less common units (like dragons) take up more space on the battlefield, have stronger attacks (in the dragon's case, leaving poison in its path), and appear in limited supply. Each individual type of unit, as well as the player character, can be leveled up. The complexity of a strategy game adds depth, while the simplicity of the puzzle game makes all the strategy easier to understand.

Between epic puzzle battles, your party wanders across a simplified world map, finding resources, searching for sidequests and bonus fights, and advancing the interesting, well-written story of a demon plot to pit elves and humans against one another, all presented (as everything in the game is) in attractive, fully hand-drawn pixel art.

Capy is one of the biggest surprises this year, hitting the console scene with two very solid puzzle games. I look forward to seeing what the developer comes up with next -- although, first, I look forward to exploring Clash of Heroes more over the next several hundred hours.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.