Puzzle Quest: Galactrix
From: D3 Publisher
For: Nintendo DS
Genre: Puzzle, RPG
ESRB Rating: Everyone (10+)
Puzzle Quest: Galactrix
The original Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords was a fun and surprisingly addictive story-driven role-playing game (RPG) that used match-three, Bejeweled-like puzzle elements as the combat mechanism. Puzzle Quest: Galactrix sheds the fantasy setting of Warlords in favor of a sci-fi theme complete with spaceship battles, aliens, and most importantly, "futuristic" puzzle play.
This new puzzle scheme is still similar to Bejeweled et al
in that it involves moving like colored pieces into rows of three or more. However, as "futuristic" pieces, you're looking at hexagons that can move in six directions (as opposed to just up, down, side, side of typical gem or block puzzlers). What's more, new pieces will fall in based on the direction the last piece was moved from, so instead of blocks always plopping down from the top a la
Bejeweled, Galactrix pieces enter from six degrees of anywhere (again, it's a hexagon thing).
As a combat mechanism, you're matching "mine" pieces, and damage is inflicted on your opponent based on the number of hit points doled out by the mine. You make your move, your enemy makes a move and so on until the blow-up-fest returns a winner.
In true Puzzle Quest tradition, long chains or matched mines (beyond three) result in massive amounts of damage... and usually not in your favor. In fact, the number of occasions where a seemingly simple move by your enemy causes an incalculable cascade of misfortune upon you can be frustrating because it seems so unbalanced. To paraphrase a phrase: "fool me once, shame on me; fool me fifty-times, and I'll ram my stylus through the screen!"
Causing or compounding that frustration, the puzzle mechanics are just different enough from be-friendly Bejeweled to make for a steep learning curve, mainly because you have to un-learn your "match-three" habits (assuming you have any), think outside the box but inside the hexagon, so to speak.
Then again, frustration in a puzzle game is kind of the point.
Adding to the thorniness of it all, Puzzle Quest: Galactrix also has a tendency to reuse the same puzzles in different ways, including mining, crafting and traveling mini-games. These alternates add the RPG elements of leveling up your character, upgrading your ship's weapons and/or extending playtime, which is cool, though it starts to smell like redundancy after a while.
Joining all these elements together is a storyline (yes, there's a story) about a new breed of clones threatening the galaxy that moves along as segmented "quests." The story is passable science-fiction pulp that doesn't really interfere with the flow of the game, which is really about puzzle solving anywhere, so there you go.
All told, Galactrix is everything you'd want from a game using both "puzzle" and "quest" in its title. It's clever, original yet familiar, uh, "challenging" (or stylus-rammingly frustrating) and delivered in easily digestible sci-fi RPG snippets.