Status: Getting by with a little help from the internet
Puzzle solving is great for your brain, so says Dr. Kawashima, the genius behind all the Brain Age games. And if the doctor tells you to play more puzzle solving games, then you should listen to what he is telling you. While this might not be one of his endorsed games, Puzzle Expedition is definitely going to give your problem solving skills a good workout. Playing as Ana and her guide, Ben, you set off on an adventure through Cambodia, Alaska, Egypt and Atlantis in search of Ana’s missing father. As you clear each area of the map, Ana and Ben come across clues to aid the pair in their search. The story is there as a means to deliver the puzzles, but it’s actually not overly contrived, making you think you are playing some epic story.
Puzzle Expedition features over 90 puzzles spread through 4 main areas as well as a hidden bonus area. Each level requires you to use both Ana and Ben, pushing blocks, flipping levers, and using transportation devices to create paths to each level’s exit. The most important thing to note is blocks can only be pushed and never pulled. Once you push it into a corner, the only way to undo it is to restart the level, something that may cause some frustration if you were 2 moves away from reaching the exit. Using the various types of blocks (normal, exploding, ice, magnetized), lifts, teleporters and other useful gadgets, making sure Ana and Ben both reach the exit is a fun but sometimes very frustrating exercise in patience.
The adventure purely uses the digital pad and buttons to control and offers no touch screen support, which I am okay with. I’d hate to accidentally brush a spot and have a block move to an undesirable location and ruin the pathway I’ve been working on for the last five minutes. I always seem to forget this and tap my characters to switch who I am using, which makes me move blocks in directions I don’t mean to go in. That’s just because I keep expecting there to be touch elements, even though I’ve been playing this for a while now.
I do wish there was more of a variety in the types of puzzles available in Puzzle Expedition. While each level is completely different, they are somewhat repetitive. You know that you’ll be doing the same kind of thing in each level, and as you progress and come across new types of blocks or items to use, odds are they all end up thrown into each level. It’s great to be offered a challenge and you feel amazing when you finally get both characters to the exit, but sometimes it can be a bit of a turn-off, which is part of the reason it has taken me so long to sit down and write about the game. I’ve been completely stumped and used all three available skip tokens (which can only be regained by clearing a level previously skipped). Thankfully, there are some people who have been nice enough to upload step by step guides to help me get through some of the more difficult puzzles.
Puzzle Expedition DS is a great addition to any puzzle lover’s DS collection. You definitely need to put your thinking cap on when you sit down with some of these levels, and if you run out of skip tokens and end up just as stuck as I seem to keep getting, there is this handy step by step guide you can look to for some assistance. It doesn’t replace the Professor Layton games as the best DS puzzlers out there, but it is loads better than some of the others I’ve come across.