I had been waiting all my life to discover the puzzle/RPG hybrid. This was proven when I discovered that my addiction to Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords bordered on unhealthy back when the game first came out. I think it was because I’d never really played a puzzle/RPG hybrid before, and while the plot was cookie-cutter at best, there was something about the formula that I couldn’t get enough of. Naturally, folks caught on after that, and the whole puzzle/RPG thing turned into a brand new genre.
Wizschool ($1.99) falls firmly into said genre, but has taken some new liberties. For instance, instead of a medieval world populated by orcs and demons, you’re in a magic academy that will give you the feeling you’ve tumbled right into J.K. Rowling’s discarded footnotes. The art is well done, and the game has a whimsical soundtrack to go along with it, which makes it pretty easy to get swept up into the universe.
Compared to the majority of iOS games out there right now, Wizschool has a lot of text. A LOT. I wouldn’t mind this if it was witty and well-written, but it’s moderately amusing at best. Luckily you can skip it if you want to get right to the battles. I got the feeling that the dialogue was more aimed at younger gamers than adults, which would be fine, except when you factor in the challenge level. But we’ll get to that in a bit.
Much like Puzzle Quest, Wizschool puts you in the role of a central character that must fight match three battles in order to level up and proceed through the story. In each battle, you’ll see your statistics before you start, and you’ll also have a chance to equip potions and magic to increase your strength. There are also three different types of battles.
Poker battles are you against an opponent, and you take turns making moves. Each of you has three seconds to make as many moves as you can. This mode is fairly easy, and as long as you pay attention, beating your opponents is usually a snap.
Potion battles are another story, however. These battles are diced up into three stages, which are labeled Initiation, Apprentice, and Confirm. To complete each, you’ll need to play the puzzle and match certain resources to meet a quota of each, which creates a potion. What’s tricky about this is that it’s timed, and that it can take a while to get all the right resources on the board and get them matched up. Within the first hour of play, I had been defeated by a few opponents and had to go back and try again. Luckily, you can back up through the map and replay old battles to hone your skills.
Battle mode is also challenging, and my favorite of the three. You use the same timing method as Poker, but each player has a health bar, and you have to match certain things on the board to either attack your opponent or heal yourself. This one is really fun and keeps you always moving.
If you’re having a tough time with battles, there’s always the store. Accessible from the main menu, you can spend your hard earned gold here to buy new potions, boosts to health, speed, and luck, and more. There’s also a mode that lets you practice all of the different puzzle modes in various difficulty levels. If you want to hone your skills, this is the place to go.
Overall, I really enjoyed Wizschool. While not every element was perfectly executed, it really has a tremendous amount going for it with its lovely score, beautiful art, and memorable gameplay. If you’ve ever enjoyed any puzzle RPG, I think it’s safe to say you’ll be charmed by this one as well.