With the App Store taking a holiday break, we've been finally able to go back and play some games that have been on our to-do lists for some time.

One title that had previously drawn our attention is Vivid Games' Samurai Puzzle Battle [App Store]. This title debuted as a $4.99 game a few weeks ago, but with the competitive realities of the App Store, has since been slashed down to $1.99. In the meanwhile, Vivid Games has released an update to their anemic Lite version [App Store] to one that delivers a surprisingly full-featured version of the game.

Samurai Puzzle Battle is both a strategy game and a traditional Match-3 color game. The game places you in medieval Japan as one of several Shoguns looking to dominate the country. As a turn-based strategy game, you buy and deploy armies to take over adjacent territories. Each army can move one space per turn and is reminiscent of the game of Risk. Army selection, however, is a bit more detailed with a choice of a variety of creatures (see right), each with their own advantages and disadvantages.

In addition, each territory you take over may already be inhabited by native creatures which must be fought or others resources that must be won. Each time these battles or tests are settled by a Match-3 gaming session. Different symbols must be matched in rows or columns of 3 or more (like Bejeweled). Some symbols (fist) will cause damage to your enemy, while others will replenish your own resources (strength, mana, ki). Your match-3 skills are really put to the test as picking which colors/symbols to eliminate in response to your enemies will greatly affect the outcome of the battles.

Your goal is to overtake all of Japan, one puzzle battle at a time. The battles themselves are also intermingled with other Match-3 based challenges to increase your gold (match as many gems within a time period) or win over allies (remove all of one color from the board). These variants serve to break up battles and keep the action coming.

The game also offers an "arcade" mode that lets you simply pick up and play a single Match-3 session. This can also be used to practice battles outside of the campaign mode itself. Overall, the controls to the game are adequate, and the Lite version will give you plenty of opportunity to test it yourself.

Samurai Puzzle Battle comes in three versions:

App Store Links:

  • Samurai Puzzle Battle Lite, Free - Surprisingly full featured version of the game. Several of the warlord characters are removed and many of your warrior types for your armies are also removed, but otherwise plays identically as the full version. Arcade mode also eliminates many of the game-types.
  • Samurai Puzzle Battle Arcade, $0.99 - Isolates only the "arcade mode" as a separate game, so no campaign/strategy elements.
  • Samurai Puzzle Battle, $1.99 - The full version with full campaign mode and arcade modes. For $1.99, if you have any interest in the Lite version, it's an inexpensive upgrade.

Some obvious comparisons are going to be made with Puzzle Quest which has just been released for the iPhone. We'll address Puzzle Quest for iPhone shortly, but with a full-featured Lite version, and $1.99 full version, you can easily judge the value of Samurai Puzzle Battle game yourself. Overall, the depth and replayability of this game make it a great value for $1.99.

  • Rocketman919

    Looks very fun and extremely polished. I was holding my breath on this one, but now i might have to get it.

  • Rocketman919

    Looks very fun and extremely polished. I was holding my breath on this one, but now i might have to get it.

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  • dunkee

    Finally you review one my most fave app on the AppStore.
    It's officially the game I play the most. Amazingly addictive game. It's so much ore than match-3 because you also must have a strategy of which one to match.

    ps: There are a few typos there

  • http://deleted dunkee

    Finally you review one my most fave app on the AppStore.
    It's officially the game I play the most. Amazingly addictive game. It's so much ore than match-3 because you also must have a strategy of which one to match.

    ps: There are a few typos there

  • 78er

    I buy this game some weeks ago, when i try lite version. But the full game is stupid hard and story line is weak. Ok, its cheap, but its crap due for Puzzle Quest is out. When i purchase Puzzle Quest, i delete this one from my iPhone. This game need better UI and improve gameplay.

  • 78er

    I buy this game some weeks ago, when i try lite version. But the full game is stupid hard and story line is weak. Ok, its cheap, but its crap due for Puzzle Quest is out. When i purchase Puzzle Quest, i delete this one from my iPhone. This game need better UI and improve gameplay.

  • Lazrhog

    Hopefully MiZoo (my game) will be out just after the holiday break (already submitted to Apple), so maybe wait and have a look at that, as I (and many others) believe it to be a very playable match-3 style game. Its based on my old jailbreak game iZoo, but someone else used that name on the appstore first.

    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=M4sF0bd8yiw

  • Lazrhog

    Hopefully MiZoo (my game) will be out just after the holiday break (already submitted to Apple), so maybe wait and have a look at that, as I (and many others) believe it to be a very playable match-3 style game. Its based on my old jailbreak game iZoo, but someone else used that name on the appstore first.

    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=M4sF0bd8yiw

  • http://bartig.posterous.com Bartig

    So wow Lazrhog, you just copied Zoo Puzzle/ Zoo Keeper 1 on 1? How noble...

    Samurai Puzzle surely doesn't have 'it'. The story is weird and complex, the battles are too hectic and don't feel as good as the ones in Puzzle Quest. Really, it might be a lot more expensive, but PQ is better in any way.

  • http://bartig.posterous.com Bartig

    So wow Lazrhog, you just copied Zoo Puzzle/ Zoo Keeper 1 on 1? How noble...

    Samurai Puzzle surely doesn't have 'it'. The story is weird and complex, the battles are too hectic and don't feel as good as the ones in Puzzle Quest. Really, it might be a lot more expensive, but PQ is better in any way.

  • Lazrhog

    nope, have added loads of original stuff into it now for appstore release. Still its very fast and playable, and has a large number of people that still play it.

  • Lazrhog

    nope, have added loads of original stuff into it now for appstore release. Still its very fast and playable, and has a large number of people that still play it.

  • http://bartig.posterous.com Bartig

    Well, hope you will release it really cheap. There are already so many games out in this genre. Samurai Puzzle tries to add some depth into the genre but does it totally wrong, unfortunately.

  • http://bartig.posterous.com Bartig

    Well, hope you will release it really cheap. There are already so many games out in this genre. Samurai Puzzle tries to add some depth into the genre but does it totally wrong, unfortunately.

  • dunkee

    Puzzle Quest is nowhere as fun as Samurai Puzzle Battle. What I like most (and Arn seems to fail to mention) is that you must be careful which boxes to match. You must plan your move based on your strength, weakness, power, magic, and those of your opponents'.

    That's what makes it one step deeper than Bejewelled.

    Lazrhog: What about calling it MiZooKeeper?

  • http://deleted dunkee

    Puzzle Quest is nowhere as fun as Samurai Puzzle Battle. What I like most (and Arn seems to fail to mention) is that you must be careful which boxes to match. You must plan your move based on your strength, weakness, power, magic, and those of your opponents'.

    That's what makes it one step deeper than Bejewelled.

    Lazrhog: What about calling it MiZooKeeper?

  • Lazrhog

    I think 2 bucks is the most quick pick up games should be to be honest.

  • Lazrhog

    I think 2 bucks is the most quick pick up games should be to be honest.

  • Marlene DeGrood

    Regarding iZoo .... now MiZoo .... I loved this game when it was on my jailbroken ipod touch and I've been really looking forward to it coming to the app store. I read the forums every day looking for news of it's release so I am very happy right now. I found it a lot different then the other match 3 games. I hope it hasn't changed too much. Thanks Lazrhog!

  • Marlene DeGrood

    Regarding iZoo .... now MiZoo .... I loved this game when it was on my jailbroken ipod touch and I've been really looking forward to it coming to the app store. I read the forums every day looking for news of it's release so I am very happy right now. I found it a lot different then the other match 3 games. I hope it hasn't changed too much. Thanks Lazrhog!

  • Lazrhog

    Marlene: thanks :). I hope you like it when it comes out soon

  • Lazrhog

    Marlene: thanks :). I hope you like it when it comes out soon

  • RedSt★R

    Good game not the best not the worst
    It is what it is.

  • RedSt★R

    Good game not the best not the worst
    It is what it is.

  • Carlos-Sz

    @ arn:

    This time I decided to purchase a game just considering your remarks. And... Thank you!

    SPB is a nice surprise! It's not an easy game to start and play. You have to take some time to go through the (confusing) tutorial so you can understand the basics. Once done that the game does not look too complicated anymore.

    The Risk element makes it really interesting.

    The 3-Match strategy is not so much important as it is in PQ. Maybe developers could make this part better in the future.

    Anyway, a nice game with an irresistible price!

  • Carlos-Sz

    @ arn:

    This time I decided to purchase a game just considering your remarks. And... Thank you!

    SPB is a nice surprise! It's not an easy game to start and play. You have to take some time to go through the (confusing) tutorial so you can understand the basics. Once done that the game does not look too complicated anymore.

    The Risk element makes it really interesting.

    The 3-Match strategy is not so much important as it is in PQ. Maybe developers could make this part better in the future.

    Anyway, a nice game with an irresistible price!