The DS has loads of good puzzle games - Picross, Tetris, Meteos - and some fantastic strategy titles too - Fire Emblem and Advance Wars chief among them. But it could certainly do with more great puzzle strategy games; titles that blend the addictive action of matching coloured objects with the cerebral challenge of conquering enemies and planning attacks. Thankfully, here comes Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes to fill that particular void, and a jolly good job it does too.
Taking a graphical style that harks back to the glory days of Super Nintendo RPGs, Clash of Heroes is certainly a nice-looking title, with glistening rivers, cutesy characters and detailed sprites during the battle scenes. Rather than granting the player free movement around the game's areas though, you move along a path between nodes, at which are situated characters, strongholds and battles: sometimes the path will branch out allowing you to vary your route, although often you are expected to follow the yellow brick road as laid out before you. It's not a huge problem - it's a puzzle/strategy game after all - but a little more freedom would have been nice.
When you do come across a battle, the top screen shows your opponent and the bottom screen shows your troops. Your warriors are arranged on a grid, and the idea is to arrange them into columns of three identical units, triggering an attack. To do this, you drag the soldier you want to move to the bottom of the screen, then flick him vertically upwards where you want him to go - if you imagine a turns-based Meteos you're halfway there. Predictably there's more to it than that - you can only move the soldiers on the bottom of the pile, and with only a limited number of moves in your turn you have to be very judicious to make the most of your opportunities. Once you do trigger an attack, your soldiers charge into battle and, if there's a clear path to the top of the opponent's screen, inflict damage on your opponent.
Of course, your opponents are aiming to inflict damage on you too, but you can protect yourself by creating walls. It's not just brick walls available either - you can create golden walls, fire walls, ice walls and much more, each of which has different attributes to defend more efficiently against various attacks. It certainly adds an extra level of depth to proceedings, beefing up the strategy to a classic cut-and-thrust turns-based battle system.
If you're just after some quick action, you can load up the one-on-one battle mode and pit your wits against a CPU opponent or another real human being in either Multi-Card or Single-Card Download Play. There's no online play, but the CPU certainly plays a mean game and should provide a stern challenge throughout.
Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes was a real surprise - far from your run-of-the-mill fantasy strategy RPG, the use of a puzzle mechanic adds a completely fresh spin on the usual swords and sorcery setting. We'll certainly keep you informed of the progress on this one as its end of year launch date approaches.