MSRP: Free (in app purchases)
Platforms: iOS, Android/Kindle Fire
Puzzle and Dragons is a party-based dungeon crawler, pet collector, and match three game all rolled into one. When you create your account, you can choose from three starter dragons, and then are given a roll of the Rare Egg Machine during the tutorial. As you progress through normal dungeons, every monster you defeat has a chance of dropping an egg containing a copy of that monster.
You will build your way up to a team of up to 5 monsters. Then on each trip into the dungeon, you can take a “helper” monster – that’s a monster belonging to another player. You may only use each available helper monster for one run per day. You choose your helper monster from a list of your friends, as well as some random players.
Actually “running the dungeon” is a series of match three screens. You can select any orb and drag it anywhere on the board, but there is a timer, and if you take too long to decide, the orb will freeze wherever it is when the timer expires. Ideally, you want to make combo chains, as it buffs the damage of your team. Whatever colors are matched in a row or column of three or more will activate the damaging abilities of any monsters of the same color on your team. The pink hearts will refill your health bar, and also benefit from combos.
The majority of monsters will also have special abilities that you can cast when they are fully charged. The game indicates that an ability is charged when the background of the monster frame gets brighter and the frame rises up just a little. You can use multiple monster abilities in the same turn, and many of them have good synergy (such as using an ability that impacts enemy defenses, and then one that buffs your teams attacks).
There are five types of orbs – red is fire, green is wood, blue is water, yellow is light, and purple is dark. Light attacks are strong against dark monsters, and vice versa. For the other three attributes fire is strong against wood, wood is strong against water, and water is strong against fire. In the early levels, this is something you won’t need to concern yourself with too much in order to win, however, later on, the dungeons get much harder, and knowing what types of monsters you are likely to encounter in a specific dungeon may impact your strategy and team choice.
All monsters you currently own are stored in your monster box. Less valuable monsters can be fused into more valuable monsters to increase their level – monsters do not get experience in dungeons (although that is how you increase your level and thus your team cost and friend allowance). When a monster reaches maximum level for its type, you may be able to perform an evolution on it, combining it with one more evolution materials (which are also monsters, but they are unable to be leveled up) to turn it into a stronger monster type.
Sound confusing yet? It’s immensely confusing. Fortunately, it’s also immensely popular, so there are lots of great resources out there if you want to educate yourself before diving in. Check the wiki for an excellent (if a little math-y) explanation of the mechanics of the game, and the monster book if you need to figure out what monsters are needed for what evolutions and where you’re most likely to find them.
There are magic stones available in game for real money – magic stones have many uses, from letting you revive in a dungeon after a defeat to allowing you to expand your monster storage. You will receive magic stones without spending money as well; they are given sometimes as log in rewards, and are granted the first time you clear an entire dungeon. You can also purchase magic stones for $0.99 each, or buy larger packages for a per stone discount. Gold can only be earned in-game and cannot be bought.
Puzzle and Dragons does operate on an energy system like most free to play mobile games. You can use your magic stones to refill your energy, and it is fully regenerated each time you rank up, as well as regenerating over time. This is not a game you’re going to play for hours at a time without dropping some cash on it, but you can easily play for 15 minutes or so a couple of times a day without spending a dime.