Conjure Up Some Cute Spellcasting with Puzzle Saga on Facebook

Puzzle Saga is a new title from King.com that has recently appeared on our top emerging apps list with north of 349,000 monthly active users and 68,000 daily actives. A simple puzzle game that feels reminiscent of games such as Puzzle Quest — specifically Puzzle Quest 2: Mage Trainer on Facebook — it’s spins the concept into a cutsie RPG. Filled with a handful of casual-style puzzle games, the app attempts to combine small tidbits of strategy as well as arbitrarily placed virtual spaces with its core puzzle play.

The core mechanic is playing match-three puzzles to charge different colors of mana, which in turn casts different spells during your “fights”. Broken up into four categories — defense, fire attack, healing, and kinetic attack — these spells are used to defeat monsters encountered during game play.

As users progress, new puzzle types beyond the match-three will randomly appear. This includes a game where players slide entire rows and columns to match three icons (similar to games like FruitZen), as well as a Collapse-style game.

All of these games are simple and intuitive. Each spell will automatically cast when its charge bar is full, either defending, healing, or attacking the enemy, so the player’s only concern is to make matches. There are also power moves, of a sort: should a match of four or more be made, the entire row or column (depending on the orientation of the match — this also only occurs in the more common match-three game) will be cleared, charging a little bit of mana for every icon color removed. As for the enemy, they will attack based on a timer guage, inflicting damage to the player once full. Obviously, the first one to reach zero health loses.

As for the encounters themselves, they occur as players travel around a sort of fairy tale world. As they play, the game will task users with visiting different regions of the world (desert, forest, tundra, etc.) and entering various dungeons. As they do so, they must navigate by clicking on visible doors until they reach an “X” that marks the location of the dungeon boss, consuming rechargeable stamina with each door opened. Once the boss is defeated, the “Quest” will be completed and the next region will unlock.

As players win and level up, they will collect gold and unlock more powerful spells, but this is all passively done, with little involvement needed from the user. The only real control to be had, beyond the puzzle solving itself, is influencing which mana bar is filled first during fights. Nevertheless, the game is usually not difficult, so just making random matches works just fine most of the time.

Upon success in battle or leveling up, players will also earn bits of coin to spend on their virtual spaces. Within a personal castle (there are also avatar items), players can purchase a variety of wizardry décor to decorate their virtual space as they see fit. In truth, this feature feels a bit arbitrary, as the game can stand alone with just the puzzles.

On the social front, the virtual space implementation already suggests that players will be able to visit friends’ spaces, but there are more functional elements to friends as well. Beyond gifting and leaderboards, players can add each other to their “party.” Each party member will give your character a spell power boost (more damage per spell, it seems) when doing the puzzle battles, increasing based on the friends’ level. Also, party member friends do not even have to play to be added.

If there are any negatives about Puzzle Saga, the biggest is that it really does feel like a cute version of Puzzle Quest’s Facebook app. There’s nothing technically wrong with the visual style, but it’s going to be very hit or miss with most people. In later stages, the game can also unpredictably become more difficult in a way that feels like a heavy-handed push to buy virtual currency.