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Neopets Puzzle Adventure Developer Interview

Game: Neopets Puzzle Adventure
Company: Griptonite Games

With the upcoming release of Griptonite's new puzzle RPG game based on the Neopets license, Neopets Puzzle Adventure, we wanted to take some time to ask them a few questions. Here is what Sean Epperson of Griptonite had to say.

GV: Did the owners of the Neopets license approach you about making a Puzzle Quest-like game with their license, or did you approach them?

Sean Epperson: As Griptonite has a history of making great handheld games (Simpsons DS, Spore Creatures DS, and Disney Friends DS to name just a few), Capcom approached us with the project wanting to see where we could take it.

GV: At first glance, Neopets Puzzle Adventure looks like a re-themed Puzzle Quest. Are there any differences in the core gameplay that make it more than that?

Sean Epperson: Because the core audience of Neopets tends to be a bit younger, we eschewed the deep RPG elements in favor of something lighter and more accessible. We also balanced out the A.I., so if a player gets beaten in a battle, it doesn't feel like the enemy had some mystical knowledge that the player was unaware of. Of course, the enemies at the start of the game are a bit easier to beat, but as you play through and unlock more Petpet powers, the enemy uses stronger strategies to overcome you. There's a nice learning curve as you play, where you can learn tactics from the A.I., and use those strategies against them as well.

GV: How many Neopets will appear in the game?

Sean Epperson: The players get to choose from 12 popular Neopets, and meet over 60 different characters during the course of the game. Some characters are helpful to your cause, some are bent on stopping you from achieving your goals. You also discover 25 different Petpets throughout the story, who will prove to be crucial to your success.

GV: And which ones are playable?

Sean Epperson: I don't want to spoil it for people by listing them all, but Grarrl, Kacheek, Scorchio, and Techo are just a few that players will have the opportunity to play as.

GV: What are the different types of statistics that players can have (like the Puzzle Quest's magic, health and combat ability)?

Sean Epperson: As I mentioned, we went with a light RPG approach for greater accessibility. Instead of leveling up health, combat, or magic points, the player discovers Petpets which are used for combat purposes in the core "Battle" game. The player is only able to use up to 5 Petpets during any one battle, so the real strategy is learning which ones will work best for your playing style and against the opponent you face.

GV: What is the story for Puzzle Adventure?

Sean Epperson: Without giving too much away, the player's Neopet starts out as a new arrival to the fantastical city of Shenkuu. While the player spends time getting to know the varied and interesting characters that inhabit the city, a mysterious object falls from the sky. The investigation of this object sends them on a whirlwind adventure through the unique lands of Neopia.

GV: How will the Petpets affect character statistics?

Sean Epperson: Petpets are the player's key source of power, and have many different effects. Some Petpets are used for defense, some are used for attacking, some for their chaotic powers, and others for their sheer destructive force. For example, there is a Petpet which is used to shield specific tokens from being flipped for 5 turns-a tactic that can really cause havoc with someone's attack strategy. In another example, there's a Petpet which allows the player to destroy sections of the playing field. Petpets are a lot of fun to use, and make the gameplay incredibly interesting and strategic.

GV: Are there any plans to put Neopets Puzzle Adventure on systems other than the DS, Wii and PC?

Sean Epperson: The game is slated for DS, Wii and PC, and we're very excited to finally see the games launch on these platforms at the end of the month!

GV: Do you feel this game will appeal to more than just existing Neopets fans?

Sean Epperson: Absolutely. We know that there are a lot of fans of strategic puzzle games out there (including many of us that worked on this game), so we strove to make sure that it was something that people unfamiliar with Neopets would be able to enjoy. For us, it was about making a fun and challenging game that was enjoyable to play.

And for people unfamiliar with the Neopets universe, there are special codes which can be unlocked by completing special challenges, such as winning a game where you control all 4 sides of the board. These codes can then be used on the Neopets website to unlock some very cool unique items. Both Neopet fans and people new to the Neopets universe alike will love this aspect of the game.

GV: How closely did you work with the license holders? How much influence did they have over the game itself?

Sean Epperson: It's important to maintain healthy working relationships with all parties involved in making a game, and Neopets Puzzle Adventure is no exception. Each group brings different strengths to the development table; for example, the Neopets folks helped make sure that the look of the characters and art matched the fun style of its website counterparts. Likewise, Capcom helped us by testing and giving us feedback for the game, so that we could achieve the high level of quality we all desired.

After all of the work, attention, and passion that was put into the game, everyone is incredibly happy with the end result. Our hope is that players agree, and enjoy the game as much as we do!

-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

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