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Hoyle Enchanted Puzzles

Score: 75%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Boomzap Entertainment
Developer: Boomzap Entertainment
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Puzzle/ Board Games/ Family

Graphics & Sound:

Hoyle's is a fairly big name to attach to any game. It's a major understatement to say the name goes way back, since Edmond Hoyle was dead and buried by the late 1700s. Whether you recognize the name through tabletop or card or electronic games, you probably have some association with the Hoyle's brand. At one point, Sierra seemingly had a lock on the electronic gaming side of the Hoyle's brand and they still maintain a portal for online board games, but otherwise it's hard to discern the licensing logic. It doesn't really matter in this case because Hoyle's Enchanted Puzzles is a product of Boomzap Entertainment, a casual gaming mogul. The license is irrelevant because Hoyle likely wouldn't have cared much for the casual gaming revolution.

Boomzap as a developer has produced several attractive titles including Zen Fashion, Jewels of Cleopatra, and Magic Lanterns. The casual game as electronic solitaire is out and dynamic graphics with good sound and music are in. "Not your grandma's casual game" is where titles like this fit in, with Hoyle's Enchanted Puzzles being the kind of game we'd gladly have paid for in boxed form just a few years ago. The graphics are relatively tight, with pixel-based animation and simple, bright colors. Sound effects and music are simple, but well produced. There are some excellent effects on the visual side that keep things looking pretty for the kiddies, which is the target demo of Hoyle's Enchanted Puzzles.


Where Hoyle's Enchanted Puzzles manages to be more than you might expect is that it contains the equivalent of about a dozen simple games and mini-games. The definitions aren't important, but you'll feel like you are opening a lot of new content for about the first hour. After that, you'll find "variation on a theme" for the rest of the time. Each of the main games contains several layers of challenge and unlockable mini-games. Considering there are nine games available from the main menu, unlocking the layers below each of these gives you lots of replay value. The dedicated player won't burn out on Hoyle's Enchanted Puzzles for quite some time, but anyone looking for much variety will find they've tapped out the potential after a few hours.

Among the main games are variations on classic, casual-game icons that have a fantasy theme suited to the main story. The resemblance to something like Puzzle Quest is either ignorantly accidental or naively intentional. Where Puzzle Quest built casual game elements into an otherwise traditional RPG, Hoyle's Enchanted Puzzles is only putting an adventure/RPG wrapper on some very traditional casual games. The nine presented here fall into shape, color, and character matching categories. There's a racing game (Fairy Races) that is largely action oriented and a fishing game (Dark Lake) that requires some trigger finger, along with a Missile Command throwback using fireworks (Pyromancy) instead of ballistic missiles. Other more board or card-oriented games include a mahjong derivative (Runejong), a matching tile game (Alchemy), and a solitaire title (Mystic Tripeaks). Three less easily explained but instantly recognizable titles include marble matching (Celestial Spheres), shape sorting (Gnome Mines), and falling blocks (Pixie Blocks).

There is a process for opening or unlocking all these games, but it's not a very complex or strategic process. Basically you play enough to earn points that you can cash in to unlock new games. The layers within each game are mostly variations on the core gameplay, but in some cases you'll find unique mini-games hidden in one of the main game types. Diligent players will enjoy the feeling of exploration that comes with Hoyle's Enchanted Puzzles and it helps to have so many unique games. If you just can't stand one, you'll have plenty to keep yourself occupied.


Some of the gameplay contained in Hoyle's Enchanted Puzzles makes it easy enough for the youngest gamer, such as the fishing-game mechanic in Dark Lake, the pick-three mechanic of Alchemy, or the character matching in Runejong. Other titles require better reflexes, such as Pyromancy or Fairy Races. Depending on your inclination and that of your child, you may find this is the perfect balance. It feels like a more juvenile collection of games, but that doesn't mean that devoted casual-gaming fans over the age of 10 should steer clear. There's plenty of challenge available in higher levels and the reflex challenges mean that gamers not usually confronted with twitch gameplay can get their fill of the action on a small level. If you like sitting in front of Solitaire on the computer for hours contemplating your next move, Hoyle's Enchanted Puzzles is not for you. It moves quickly in some cases and includes a timer in almost all the game modes. Those of us comfortable with fast-paced gaming that also like some casual action will find a nice balance in Hoyle's Enchanted Puzzles.

Game Mechanics:

Each of the games comes with an explanation and simple controls. You never have to guess where you should be clicking or what you should be doing in each game. The simple controls are coupled with a good learning curve throughout. Games like Fairy Races that include the use of more than the mouse and isolated clicks still boil down to a few simple controls. Hoyle's Enchanted Puzzles preps you the first time you play a new game, then gets out of your way. The instructions and in-game text are fully translated across eight languages, and can be changed under the Settings menu; this means the experience is portable quickly across cultures and borders. Not much in the way of controls here to worry about, but you can get under the hood quickly and adjust the experience to your liking.

If you still haven't sampled the casual gaming experience, now is a perfect time. You won't always get as much bang for the buck as you do with Hoyle's Enchanted Puzzles. Most of these could stand on their own as a download or online game. There's a lack of collaborative play or scoring leaderboards; since Boomzap does electronic distribution, it would seem like a natural choice for them to offer some competitive rankings for the various games contained here. Glory is found in the ending credits, which will be unseen for a while considering the scope and depth of Hoyle's Enchanted Puzzles. Replay value and stickiness isn't all it should be with the lack of variety in each of the nine game modes, but it will be some time before you tire of seeing new levels and variations open up. The overall package is sound and the amount of fun to be had is significant. Recommended for puzzle fans old and new.

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows 98/2000/XP

Test System:

Microsoft Windows XP 2002, Service Pack 2 1.79 GHz, 1GB of RAM

Windows Zen Fashion Nintendo Wii Okami

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated