Puzzle Quest Galactrix Review (DS)

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Puzzle Quest Galactrix Publisher: D3Publisher
Developer: Infinite Interactive

Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3,
Reviewed on DS

A fledgling pilot, you rebel against your corporate overlords in an effort to save humanity from extinction at the hands of a horrifying experiment. You do this by matching tiles to win interstellar battles between heavily armed ships.

Kyle Ackerman

Puzzle Quest GalactrixPuzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords was a game that brought hardcore games into the fold of casual games, by garbing a simple match-three puzzle game in the robes of an epic role-playing game. Puzzle Quest Galactrix pushes that formula even further. Galactrix is a deeply satisfying game, but the deeper strategy of its hex-based puzzle mechanic, and some of the game's trappings, make it even more hardcore – which risks alienating those who enjoyed the simpler strategy of the first Puzzle Quest game.

Match Three... Without Gravity!

Puzzle Quest GalactrixThe core game in Galactrix has players matching three like-colored tiles in a hexagonal grid. Typically, tiles slide to fill in the matrix following the direction in which you swapped tiles, but gravitational effects can change that. The nature of the puzzle alone makes Galactrix both more complex and tactically deeper than its predecessor and most match-three games out there. It requires more thought to set up long chains of matches or to block any of my opponent's moves. That makes it a more interesting game for some, but a less engaging game for people who just don't want to have to think as hard.

There are a lot of reasons in Galactrix to play match-three puzzles. Supplemented with special ship's equipment that can alter the play field, such puzzles are used to resolve combat. They're also used to mine asteroids, build new equipment, unearth antiquated lore, repair failing leapgates and hunt for bargains at stores. Each different application is a variant on the game, with some asking you to eliminate a set number of tiles, and others trying to make a certain number of specific matches within a time limit.

Deeper... More Complex... With Commodities Trading...

Puzzle Quest GalactrixThe basic play of Galactrix is a lot more flexible than the original Puzzle Quest. You aren't restricted to any particular character "class" – instead you can build your character's various skills as you see fit, with the type of ship you choose to fly at a given moment largely determining the types of game-changing equipment you use in combat. That makes Galactrix more fun on the first play-through, but largely eliminates any sense of replayability. You can pursue the favor or anger of different factions in the galaxy, but this is fairly easy to manipulate and therefore doesn't require a second play-through.

I also think that the effort to add the depth of a trading system to Galactrix failed. In the style of old "Lemonade Stand" games, you can mine resources (or harvest them from destroyed ships) and sell them around the galaxy. Different regions will support premium prices, so there's an incentive to cart cargo around until you can get a good price. But most such games rely on being able to buy low and sell high. In Galactrix you can only sell, so those who enjoy role-playing merchants only get half their preferred activity. Personally, I find buying and selling too much like work, but I'm sure there's an exterminator out there thinking, "If I wanted to kill 50 rats, I'd just go to my job."

Easier to Let Go

Combat, the crux of the game, is a lot of fun. For a while. Admittedly, it's a good, long while, but eventually it becomes obvious how to game the AI opponents. For example, matching blue tiles replenishes shields, effectively restoring health, a critical activity when fairing poorly in combat. Or you might need a particular tile color to power a useful skill. The AI seems to go for the "best" move (the one that matches the most tiles) but not necessarily the one that makes the most strategic sense. In that way, it's easy to lure the AI into, say, matching a lot of yellow tiles instead of replenishing his shields and saving his hide. By late in the game, a little strategy and decent equipment make nearly every match a guaranteed victory. That's not necessarily fun, so the game wears itself out. Admittedly, the game offers "Psi Powers" that let you escape combat, but then you don't advance in level or, for that matter, play the game that you bought.

Puzzle Quest GalactrixThe big advantage the DS should have over the other versions of Galactrix is the touch-screen. Swapping gems is more fun and intuitive when one can simply tap and slide them throughout the hexagonal matrix. Unfortunately, the DS version of Galactrix tries to cram far too much information into too tiny a space. As a result, not only was it hard for me to immediately grasp what was happening, it was difficult to tap the right thing on the screen. That sucks when a wrong move is costly during combat.

While I loved being able to tap the screen where I wanted to navigate my ship, I found I often sent my ship drifting in circles when trying to tap a menu item. Besides, the graphics and sound are so much better on the larger screen, you should decidedly go for the other versions of Galactrix. Unlike Challenge of the Warlords, the design for Galactrix seems to have crossed the bright line concerning the amount of information that is fun to present on the DS. The DS version also features long load times that become interminable when hopping from system to system hacking gates. Go for the fancy graphics and intense sound of the other versions.

Lasers Rather Than Axes

Galactrix is building on the audience of Challenge of the Warlords, and while the original game created a fascinating new genre blend and helped casual and hardcore gamers cross comfortable boundaries, Galactrix is really for those who want a more hardcore version of Challenge of the Warlords. It's cooler, flashier, shinier, with cooler sound and a super-slick interface, but it's an intense-r more-of-the-same.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on May 20, 2009 11:17 PM.

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