A demo version of upcoming puzzle game, Puzzle & Dragons, is now available on the Nintendo 3DS eShop. You may have heard of it – it’s already a very successful mobile game – and the 3DS version actually comprises two games in one, with a special Super Mario Bros. Edition included.

It’s the Mario side of this double-hitter that you’ll be able to try with this demo. Pure Nintendo has downloaded the demo and had some hands-on play time, and here’s what we think of the game so far.

Although the levels are not overly difficult, the overall feel is to familiarize yourself with the game’s unique concept and mechanics, giving you the basics of how to play. If you haven’t played Puzzles & Dragons before, this is especially useful – it’s much more involved than a simple Candy Crush-style of match-three play.

In this way, the demo provides a very good training module to help you get accustomed to the game. It’s definitely worth watching the intro to find out what everything means and how it all works.

Starting your demo, you’re able to switch between title screens of the two versions, but as previously mentioned, only the Mario version is playable. There’s an Easy and a Normal mode, but you’ll have to start with Easy mode – once that’s finished, Normal mode is unlocked, which is a little more challenging.

The game is actually pretty fun, though short-lived – this is a demo after all – and definitely opens up once you start playing around with combos. The Easy mode is, well, easy, but it serves as a great suite of training levels to help learn the nuances of this particular match-three puzzler.

puzzledragmario8Each level sees your little Mario figure on the lower screen moving through a platformer-style land, making his way through enemies until he hits a boss character. It’s very cutely designed, with Mario on a stick like a shadow puppet of some sort.

Each level sees you up against several enemies, mostly Goombas and Koopa Troopers, and you’ll be given the task of depleting their HP before they deplete yours.

In this way, the game is essentially a role-playing game, with you and your enemies taking turns to strike at each other. The difference is that you’ll use the orbs on the lower screen to form matches and combos that result in attacks on your enemies.

Orbs can be moved freely with your stylus. There are several types of orbs, and the color determines which of your allies will attack. Of course, combos are key here, and the more matches you make, the more allies will attack and the stronger their attack will be. Strategic thinking is puzzledragmario6definitely going to help you win those battles more easily, and the biggest difference between this and most other match-three puzzlers is that you can move an orb freely around the grid. This movement doesn’t simply swap your selected orb with another, it actually shoves any orbs out of your way as you drag your selected orb around the grid. This can result in several combo setups – the caveat being that once you start moving an orb, there is a limited time to do so, indicated by the timeline on the left hand side.

Overall, this demo gives a short but fun burst of puzzle action that will no doubt make it easier to dive into the full game, which is released later this week in Europe and Australia, and later this month in the US on May 22.

The demo is free so if you’re curious in the slightest about this game, or have a penchant for match-three puzzlers, this is worth a try. Let us know if you’ve tried the game, and whether you’ll be picking the full game up later this month.