Before we get into this, we should let you know that we made a promise to ourselves that you would receive as little education about Neopets themselves as possible in reading this article. It's rare we make a pledge not to inform, but we trust you can find whatever you need in that regard here. For you Neopets fans who already know all that stuff, we should tell you that playing the game will unlock unique items for you. We say that upfront because we know that legally requires you to buy the game, saving you the trouble of having to read our hands-on.
OK, so here's a fun formula you can use if you want to skip the hands-on and just have a basic understanding of the game. Puzzle Quest minus fantasy and Match 3 plus Neopets and Othello/Reversi equals Neopets Puzzle Adventure. But that's just the general idea. The PQ team has taken a lot of steps forward with their game, beyond just cosmetic changes.
First, let's start with what's the same. You still roll a character, a Neopet of your choosing, with each species having slightly different abilities. You'll then venture to a world map that will require you to take on quests and play a simple board game (remember, it's Othello this time) to best enemies. You'll also be getting mana, only this time you have to keep control of certain colored tiles to have it on hand.
You're also still going to have special abilities in the form of petpets (which, yes, are pets of your Neopet). After you capture and train one, you'll be able to tap its power if you have the necessary mana. Unlike PQ, mana won't be used up, but your petpet will sleep for a predetermined number of turns after use.
Unlike in traditional Reversi/Othello, the winner is not whoever controls the highest number of tiles, but rather whoever has the highest score. This is attained by flipping large lines over at one time or by draining your opponent's score with petpets, of which we're told there will be at least 150 in the final game.
There are some significant changes from Puzzle Quest, though. For one, the items you collect and wear in game (there are more than 100) are now usable, allowing you to use their powers (which could lock a tile for your side, or flip an enemy's for instance) in exchange for a percentage of your score. While they were severely overpowered in the early build we played, they really did add a cool new layer to the game, helping to make up for the fact that petpets are considerably less exciting than throwing fireballs.
One thing that hasn't changed is the game's considerable size. We're told that the team aims for a 20-hour experience if you rush through, but the possibility of around 100 hours of gameplay.
There will also be the diversion of multiplayer on the disk/cartridge to help extend the game's life. DS will include WiFi play, PC will have online play and you and a friend will be able to go head to head locally, as long as you don't mind admitting to your friend that you own the Neopets game.
We'll be honest and tell you that when we first arrived at Captivate 08 in Las Vegas, there were a lot of other titles that got our attention before Neopets, and understandably so, we think. But it was a title that we kept coming back to when we had a few free minutes, and we think that's exactly what it will be like for you when it drops this holiday season.