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Game Review

Mobile video games are a fast-growing market here in the mid '10s. But while cranking out titles regularly for its own portable 3DS system, Nintendo has still been hesitant to let Mario or any of its other franchise characters venture into the on-the-move playground of smartphones and tablets. That tide may be turning now. And the mile-long-titled double game pack Puzzle & Dragons Z + Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition could well be a test-the-water toe-dip.

Based on a very popular smartphone game called Puzzles & Dragons (from Gungho Online Entertainment), this game pack essential takes the same match-3, Candy Crush-style puzzle concept and plays it out with two totally different stories and sets of characters.

Tame a Dragon in a Mythical Land

Game 1 is a Pokémon-like RPG that sets up gamers as a young fledgling Dragon Tamer in the world of Dracomacia. It's a cartoony land shared by humans and all manner of monsterish beasts. As part of a group called the Rangers, your guy or gal hero will have to start collecting and evolving a team of monster companions and, battle by battle, take on an evil magic-boosted organization set on world destruction.

Save the Princess

Game 2? Well, that one's a familiar Mushroom Kingdom version of the tale: Bowser has once again snatched up Princess Peach, and a certain mustachioed Italian plumber must gather and grow his iconic gang of Koopas and Toads to battle their way toward saving the day.

Gameplay-wise, the formula for both of these frolics is very similar. As you gather together characters (which pop out of hatched eggs in one case and found treasure cubes in the other) you'll note that each critter has a particular type (water, fire, plant, light, dark, etc.) and a specific stat set based on experience level. Taking those elements into consideration, you stack your five-member team so as to best face off in turn-based rock-paper-scissors conflicts. If your foe fields plant beasties, for instance, then a fire dragon or a Red Yoshi will help your team fare well.

Connect Three, Four or More

If you've ever played the aforementioned Candy Crush or a game called Bejeweled, then you have an idea of how the next part of each of these games plays out. Working on a grid filled with randomly scattered colored orbs, gamers must strive to make horizontal or vertical matches of three or more of the same colors. Those combos will allow your similarly colored teammates to unleash their attacks.

Instead of a quick object flip, however, fanciful frivolity gives the formula a bit of a boost by letting you use the 3DS stylus to reposition a chosen orb anywhere on the grid while a clock ticks off a few seconds worth of movement time. As you move that orb, any orbs passed over will shift position and offer up the possibility (with considered forethought) of creating a growing string of combos that pump up your team's attack. With time and practice, taking down a mighty, armored bad-guy beast with a string of, say, 10 or 12 cascading combos is a joy to unleash.

For Parental Consideration

As far as the potential violence of those character slashes, blasts and zaps, it should be noted that none of the battlers—whether gigantic lizard, magical fire breather or, um, Luigi himself—ever really make physical contact. The attacks are instead registered in bright flashes and sound effects. And when a fighter's health bar is depleted he simply falls over and blips out of sight … to rest up for another day's battle.

The only other aspect of this E-rated game worth bringing up for concerned parental consideration is the Pokémon-like spirituality and evolutionary underpinnings of the Puzzle & Dragons Z game. The good-vs.-evil battle is cartoonish, to be sure, but there's no denying the light sense of Eastern mysticism in the quip-filled dialogue between people and dragons, and the sometimes horned and demonic-looking creatures in the dragon and beastie mix.

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May 22, 2015

On Video

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Bob Hoose

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