You can turn anything into an RPG, whether it's a first-person shooter or a straight-up brawler. Case in point: Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes, which is less an RPG than a puzzle game. But while it's not a traditional role-playing game by any means, it certainly deserves your attention.
Old-school fans will recognise the name from the line of classic PC strategy games, but Clash of Heroes is obviously a very different animal from those games. The graphics alone – a colourful style resembling that of anime – makes that clear enough. But that doesn't mean that the puzzle-based battles don't have plenty of strategy of their own.
Each encounter in Clash of Heroes pits two armies against one another, with the units including familiar sights from other works of fantasy, like unicorns and elves. The combat is turn-based, and revolves around lining up three of a kind and sending them through the enemy's lines. Many of the units have special abilities, though some take longer than others to attack, and it's possible to turn basic units into walls to block enemy strikes. More and more factors come into play as the game progresses, which boost the difficulty of the puzzles in turn.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the new two-versus-two battles. In this mode, you have to share control of your army with a friend. Naturally, success means cooperating to properly link up different units. It's not a mode that I spent much time with – I’m not one to cooperate with other people – but it is a very different take on the original battle system. I think people who enjoy cooperative battling will like it.
Clash of Heroes works pretty well, all things considered. I like that it relies more on strategy than luck, unlike its nearest competitor Puzzle Quest. In that game, entire battles can be won or lost depending on how the different orbs fall. By contrast, Clash of Heroes mainly requires that you be forward-thinking when it comes to the placement of your units. It makes for a particularly good multiplayer experience, as the complexity of placing units to maximize their varying abilities is a rousing battle of wits that can last 15 minutes, or close to an hour.
The multiplayer is supported with both online and offline modes, as well as random matchmaking. For my money, that's the biggest reason to grab this high-def update over the original DS version. The puzzle-based strategy puts it right up there with another XBLA strategy title - Magic: The Gathering. Clash of Heroes doesn't deal with cards, exactly, but in my mind the considered approach to unit-based strategy will appeal to a similar crowd.
Of course, the main reason to buy Clash of Heres is the fact that it looks quite lovely in high-definition. I'm not a huge fan of the art style, but the colourful visuals stand out nicely on a big television. Along with the online multiplayer, the graphics represent the biggest update over the original DS version.
But honestly, it's the puzzling that makes Clash of Heroes tick. Even without the online multiplayer and superior graphics, I would still recommend this game to RPG and puzzle fans, as not nearly enough people played the original. Here on high-definition consoles, it's cheap and accessible, meaning that it demands a look. If you missed out on the original, consider this a second chance. Go and take it.