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Puzzler Collection

For: DS   Also on: PSP

A no-brainer

Product: Puzzler Collection | Publisher: Ubisoft | Format: DS | Genre: Party/ mini- games | Players: 1-2 | Networking: wireless (network) | Version: Europe
Puzzler Collection DS, thumbnail 1
Believe it or not, games weren't always about princesses, cookery and managing football teams. There was a time when video games were just about… well, games. Things we already played were converted into high-tech versions of their former selves, and many people were sure that in the years to come we'd not need a deck of cards or a pen and paper ever again.

Well, they were wrong, and thanks to frustrating attempts like Puzzler Collection, they're still wrong.

Puzzler, for those who aren't familiar with the brand, is a moderately successful magazine in the UK that features a variety of wordsearches, crosswords and other brain-testing miscellany. With brain training being all the rage right now, and buzz-terms like "casual gaming" doing the rounds, it was only a matter of time before more basic puzzle games like this started to make an appearance. So what does Puzzler Collection offer?

It's a pretty basic lot, all told. Once you strip away the game modes, which we'll come to in a minute, you're left with four basic puzzle staples. There's your crosswords, which most will be familiar with, fitwords, where you're left with a list of words and a grid to fit them into, wordsearches, giving the Pocket Gamer team a whole host of flashbacks to primary school, and the ever-popular sudoku.

On top of this are the three game modes, which essentially boil down to Easy, Medium and Hard. Tackling an Easy puzzle is, for the most part, very easy indeed. Crosswords are fairly small in size, for example, and the sudoku is just a tiny 6x6 version. Even on Pro, most puzzlers should find themselves tearing through the challenges fairly quickly.

But that's fine, because Puzzler Collection does feel like a sort of casual indulgence, the sort of pick-up-and-put-away game that the DS does quite well. The game modes vary in the time they demand – there's a straightforward challenge mode of puzzles that increase in difficulty as you rise in rank, which is a nice sort of story mode. Then there are some quick-fire modes where you're given puzzles and aren't allowed to make mistakes.

There's also the standard set of selection puzzles, which is probably the mode most gamers will find themselves in as it's the least restrictive. Here you select a game, select a difficulty, and you're off.

What's nice here is that you can stop and save each puzzle in the middle, which is a handy feature for a game like this. But the good design, unfortunately, stops there. Puzzler Collection takes the slightly dubious decision to use the DS vertically, Brain Training-style. The shape of the screen isn't used well at all, and instead of allowing the player to scroll the screen, it's all mashed into the centre of the two screens. And that's where the problems begin.

Because everything's squeezed in so tight, tapping with the stylus is a hit-and-miss affair. For puzzles like wordsearch and fitword, this means that you can easily choose the wrong word or line to draw, which in some game modes results in instant failure. With the crosswords, you're left with a keyboard-style input which naturally suffers from the vertical screen, and won't let you input partial clues either. Much stabbing of the touchscreen ensues, and with a time limit yapping away at you it's quite easy to get frustrated.

It's also a profoundly ugly game. Sure, it's looking to impress visually, but the garish colour scheme and jagged text don't do much for it.

The problem is that Puzzler Collection feels cheap. While it embraces the touchscreen technology, it never really makes the most of the control system. There's no way to switch between Across and Down clues on the crossword, for instance, without touching a clue in that set. The game's based around scribbling and writing, but there's no handwriting recognition, just plain old poking the screen.

Despite this, Puzzler Collection generally does its job. It might be plain, and it might be occasionally frustrating, but if you want a bunch of wordsearches to carry around in your pocket, and magazines like Puzzler are too large, then this will just about do. But the real puzzle will be why it wasn't done any better.
Puzzler Collection
Reviewer photo
Mike Cook | 12 August 2008
Puzzler Collection does exactly what it needs and no more – a host of puzzles wrapped up in a frustrating interface
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