Brightly colored Spandex and match-three puzzling might seem an odd pairing at first, but digging into Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign yields addictive super-villain smashing fun in abundance. Between collecting virtual comic book covers to unlock new heroes and leveling up your posse with RPG-style enhancements, this free-to-play battler hits the nerdy sweet spot without going overboard in the in-app purchase department.
Combining a match-three puzzler with a role-playing game isn't an entirely new idea. After all, the popular Puzzle Quest series managed to accomplish as much over five years ago. But Dungeon Hearts adds a character party dynamic, tasking you with aligning jewels on a scrolling play field to launch attacks from four unique avatars. The concept itself is great, but the entire affair falls apart only minutes after the quest begins.
The ingenious Puzzle Quest, which hit the Mac in 2008, the iPhone in 2009, and the iPad in 2010, was essentially a role-playing game, only all the "combat" is turn-based match-three face-offs against AI-controlled opponents. Bejeweled battles, basically. The formula was addictive, satisfying total RPG newbies and more hardcore players alike. Puzzle Quest 2, a universal app for iPhone and iPad, is more of the same, but it's cranked up the "epic" dial.