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Blodia Land: Puzzle Quest (NES) artwork

Blodia Land: Puzzle Quest (NES) review


"Blodia Land (BL) is a colorful, active slide-puzzler with the emphasis more on fun than abstract brain-crunching. Each level has a twisting path, which vanishes as the little lost dragon-duck walks forward. If the player shuffles tiles wrong, the dragon spins and dies. Eight diverse SMB-style maze worlds with ten-plus levels each and mini-games in dead-ends make for one of the most colorful, expansive puzzle games the NES has to offer. "



Blodia Land (BL) is a colorful, active slide-puzzler with the emphasis more on fun than abstract brain-crunching. Each level has a twisting path, which vanishes as the little lost dragon-duck walks forward. If the player shuffles tiles wrong, the dragon spins and dies. Eight diverse SMB-style maze worlds with ten-plus levels each and mini-games in dead-ends make for one of the most colorful, expansive puzzle games the NES has to offer.

Each screen has one blank square, and you can slide any number of pieces toward it depending on where the cursor's lined up. Pushing B speeds up the mini-dragon, useful in levels you just got wrong last time or later ones with time limits (never extreme,) and enter pauses the game to choose a power-up. You can even move your cursor when the game's paused. Since tiles shift quickly, you can move quite a few as the dragon's near falling off.

This means that even an inelegant solution can work, if the player has the endurance. Those who want to get through can do so with brute-force methods, then, but plowing through too many isn't fun. Puzzle fans have the latitude to find more optimal solutions. A-ha moments come on noting which loops on the board hook up where, and how to move-and-reverse or quickly join two paths two squares away. You may also need to flip two side-by-side roads into a straight line or figure the order to trigger off-board warps. Finishing several half-loops and coming back for the rest is a theme in later levels, and while the board frequently gets messy, any move you make can be undone. Even good ones may need to be.

Pausing to scramble for moves isn't the only cheat, though. Each level has power-ups the dragon can walk over. They're slightly off the path, but a quick twiddle generally picks them up. If the dragon dies and retries, the power-ups appear. This includes a paw print to skip a level. So players can sacrifice lives, which are cheap in BL (just solve a level or win a mini-game,) and waltz through some nasty puzzles--like almost all of the final world and its levels with stairs to a second screen. Even with "calibrated" difficulty, though, winning is an accomplishment, and it's nice when a puzzle game offers satisfying puzzles without demanding perfection. Puzzler fans will know which levels they didn't solve right, and between retrying that and the skipped levels, BL is worth looking at several months after solving the first time.

Still, it'd be too forbidding if the game were just abstract puzzling. The mini-games provide confidence boosts for those stuck on a level. Games of high-low or concentration, a slot machine flashing brief hints, or even a Mario-style flag-jump with negative value are all loaded in your favor, with the dragon overreacting cutely to every failure and success. The timed classic 15-square puzzle, impossible to solve half the time, is generous if you fix some of it.

In the puzzles proper, backgrounds provide atmosphere and undercover help. Touch a dust bowl in a desert, or lakes or mirrors, or align two planets in the space world, and the dragon will slow down if nearby. Some scenery, from a vase to a cement mixer, may release fairies when tapped. They give points, which don't matter, but timing the dragon to meet them is low-stress fun. More than that, it's just beautiful, and if it's been done before--starfish and algae in a sea world, the dragon wearing a helmet in space--it needs to be done more in puzzle games. Even the bearded dude at each world's end, whose puzzle piece helps build the big dragon to fly home, dresses thematically.

I've enjoyed individual puzzles on many other NES games, but few have BL's flexibility. I've replayed it several times, getting further without the shortcuts it's offered, and the scenery along the way's been great. If I've wound up playing past midnight, it's been for poking around and not going Captain Ahab on a tough puzzle. BL brings unexpected activity and pleasant imagination to stodgy slider puzzles, even mixing in a story that needs no words, making this personal favorite a game I'm comfortable recommending to anyone.

Rating: 9/10

aschultz's avatar
Community review by aschultz (January 10, 2010)

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