In theory, Capcom owes D3Publisher a pint. What buzz there is for Neopets Puzzle Adventure is largely down to Infinite Interactive's last game, Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords, which brought a merry cast of rigid fantasy characters and RPG elements together with Bejeweled's match-3 puzzle gameplay to great effect. Despite the introduction of the kids-centric Neopets webgame IP, the expectation was that Neopets Puzzle Adventure would recreate, if not improve the experience with different components, most notably by replacing match-3 with the Othello/Reversi boardgame, and that was enough to catch a few people's attention.
The resulting game lives up to part of that - this is more than a rebadged Puzzle Quest - but the debt to Infinite's last game is very much felt in the framework. After creating a Neopet character from a range of species with wacky names (I'm a Kougru called Brrrambles, but you can also be a Mynci, Ruki, Techo or perhaps a Scorchio), players set off into a busily drawn and colourful world inspired by existing Neopet artwork and stories, and are invited to run errands for various characters associated with the Cyodrake's Gaze airship, which usually involve playing a game of Othello against a spitting monster of some sort.
Othello is a simple enough game on paper: you and an opponent take it in turns to place red and blue counters on a grid, and placing counters at both ends of a line of the other player's pieces flips them to your colour. This works horizontally, vertically and diagonally, but counters can only be placed at the end of lines in which you already have a counter present. The winner is the player with the most counters once the board is full or no more moves can be played.
Capcom has announced a few definitive dates for early 2009 releases, putting seven titles on the horological map for the start of the year.
Alien-based sheep-herding puzzler Flock! is coming in February, and will hit PC, PSN and XBLA all at once. At the opposite end of the spectrum, as we already knew, bully-faced beat-'em-up Street Fighter IV slots itself into shelves on the 20th. At least for 360 and PS3 - PC dates are as yet unconfirmed.
The Wii's very own zombie splatter-fest Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop has nailed its bloody flag firmly to the forehead of the 27th of February, where it will be joined by Neopets Puzzle Adventure on Wii, PC and DS.
Nintendo UK has published its latest round of release dates for Wii and DS, including its upcoming pedometer-based walking game (20th February), and the first two GameCube-to-Wii adaptations in the series known here as "New Play Control!"
Capcom has told Eurogamer that release dates for Street Fighter IV, Bionic Commando and other titles which appeared in the British trade press yesterday were retail guidance rather than confirmed launch dates.
It also denied that a PC version of Resident Evil 5 will be released on 13th March alongside the PS3 and 360 versions, reiterating that it has not announced a PC version of the console game.
Trade magazine MCV reported the guidance list, which is distributed to retailers to help them plan for Q1, and which claimed SF IV will be released on PS3, 360 and PC on 20th February.
Infinite Interactive does Puzzle Quest with Othello.
Never heard of Neopets? Then you're probably not among the more than 11 million unique visitors to Neopets.com each month. It's a Nickelodeon-owned online community of people caring for and raising virtual pets. What might prick up your ears, though, is that Capcom has secured the licence and set Puzzle Quest developer Infinite Interactive to work on a videogame version for Wii, PC and DS, due out this Christmas. The result is Puzzle Quest with cute animals and Reversi/Othello instead of Bejeweled as its puzzle component.