Platform: 360 Arcade
Released: 16 December 2009
Playing Puzzlegeddon is a bit like trying to solve a Rubik's Cube while people throw tennis balls at your head. However, by "people" I really mean "bots," since I am apparently the only human being in the universe willing to give this a shot.
@ Fifteen minutes: I find the tutorial and learn how to play. There is a planet with a puzzle board in the center. Basically I am told to shift rows or columns around until same-colored blocks are grouped together. Then I press X to convert them into Mormons. Wait, that's not right. I press X and four little bars above the puzzle board (one for each color) begin to fill up.
The Tutorial Robot assures me that these bars are hella-important, beep boop. In this respect, Puzzlegeddon is similar to Puzzle Quest: the player needs to stockpile resources of a certain color in order to strategically unleash big attacks or moves.
Green is defense, Red is attack, and there are also two other colors of dubious worth. At this point I finally realize that the pirate island perched atop the planet is supposed to be me.
@ Half an hour: I unlock an achievement for toppling the (defenseless) Tutorial Robot, and learn why I might want to keep fiddling with the Rubik's Cube. I can fire a rocket! I can also fire a rocket that turns into three rockets, and a super-rocket whose name is Monster. If my opponents get snarky and return fire, I can launch an anti-rocket, or I can make bad rockets very slow, or I can be very crafty with my timing and unleash a reflective shield that – whoops. I used it too early. This sh*t is real-time.
Playing with half my attention on the puzzle board and the other half on the evil bastards who ring the planet, bombarding me with attacks, I begin to grasp the true nature of Puzzlegeddon: to render the unsuspecting player hideously cross-eyed.
In my first Battle Royale attempt, Tutorial Robot’s buddies exact their revenge. They fire halfheartedly at each other, but reserve their biggest salvos for Clemenstation Island. The AI players are symmetrical in their strategy, unleashing the exact same attacks within milliseconds of each other on many occasions. I am suspicious and a little disappointed. Clearly this game was made to be played by real people: people who might freeze up or freak out under the pressure of a half-dozen incoming rockets. The bots continue matching colors with automaton efficiency... or so I assume. I never see their puzzle boards.
@ One hour: I have managed to scrape out a win against the bot crew, which obviously means that I am pro at this game. Time to get on the internet and show other people how it's done! Searching for custom match… zero results found. Okay, I'll try ranked. Searching for ranked match… zero results found.
I host my own match but nobody shows up. Conclusion? I am the only person playing Puzzlegeddon today.
@ Two hours: I've found a game mode called Poison Peril, which discards the whole 'firing rockets' thing and focuses exclusively on the puzzle board. You might think this would be a more relaxing experience, but the art motif is Scary Crazy Poisonous Skulls. I do like how the challenges pertain to skills required elsewhere in the game, such as setting up a board with multiple combos to convert before pulling the Mormon trigger.
@ Next Day: Still no multiplayer opponents. I am the only person playing Puzzlegeddon, period.
@ Day After Next: I host a public game with the broadest available requirements and wait. Then I wait some more. Today I am determined! While I am making coffee, someone joins my lobby and calls me a homosexual in a screechy voice. They are gone by the time I rush back to start the match.
I find their Live tag and send them an invite, which is ignored. Yep, I am that desperate for living, breathing opponents.
@ Today: Puzzlegeddon isn’t a terrible game by any means, but it was clearly developed in some sort of utopian vacuum where a built-in player base was assumed. The numbers say otherwise. Unfortunately, the whole "If you build it, they will come" thing doesn’t work in this medium. Games tend to land on either the mega-hit or ultra-fail ends of the spectrum of success, and they polarize even further when multiplayer-centric titles are concerned.
Please, small developers: If you’re not 100% sure that you can draw and hold a stable player base for some time, divert multiplayer resources towards a long-lasting and quality single player experience instead. Never assume that players will be able to find human opponents, let alone one hundred of them.
*Disclaimer: I did not purchase this game. It was given to me by Certis, who no doubt received it as some sort of gift himself. If you were to ask whether or not I would buy this game, I would reply, "Maybe ... if it was on sale. But probably not."