Gyromancer Review

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Gyromancer Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix and PopCap Games

Platforms: Xbox 360 and PC
Reviewed on Xbox 360

Rivel is a powerful summoner, able to invoke powerful beasts to do battle with his masters' foes, and he does so while aiding one of the royal rangers on a difficult quest. You can aid Rivel in his quest thanks to his summoning monsters and doing battle through a variation on Bejewelled Twist.

Kyle Ackerman

It's unbelievably hard not to compare Gyromancer to Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords. The entire game plays as if a bigwig at Square Enix said, "We need something like that!" and then brought PopCap on to do some of the dirty work in puzzle development.

In the same manner as Puzzle Quest, Gyromancer sends players on an epic quest narrated by talking heads in which every combat is resolved by playing a puzzle game. Rather than arming an adventurer to the teeth with various pieces of equipment, Gyromancer sends players to explore a series of maps armed with a selection of three summonable monsters. Each monster is aligned with a gem's color, and has strengths or weaknesses relative to monsters aligned with other colors. The only real twist (aside from the fact that the puzzle play is, effectively, Bejewelled Twist) is that your monsters have only so much life, so you have to husband their abilities throughout a level to complete a specific dungeon crawl's challenges.

In many ways, Gyromancer has a purer and more engaging puzzle mechanic than Puzzle Quest. But the biggest difference is that Puzzle Quest feels like an American-style role-playing game, whereas Gyromancer positively oozes Japanese-style RPG. It captures the style common to so many Square Enix properties, right down to using Gil as cash and battling wandering monsters in large, cave-like mazes. So, simply put, while both games are similar, if you prefer Tolkien-esque fantasy, you'll connect better with Puzzle Quest. If your taste runs more to Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest games, you'll be a bigger fan of Gyromancer.

My Own Worst Enemy

The puzzle play is the best part of Gyromancer. It's like PopCap Games' Bejewelled Twist – by rotating four gems clockwise, you try to line up three or more gems, removing them from the board. By eliminating colors that match your monster's strength, gages fill and gems appear on the screen that activate attacks against the enemy monster. At the same time, eliminating colors that match the enemy's strength fills the enemy's gauge, activating gems that countdown a few moves before launching an attack on your own monster. After the introductory levels, things get harder – matches that don't result in eliminating gems fuel the fire of enemy attacks.

The puzzle play is clever in that you have total control over the board. You are never screwed over by having an AI opponent perform a "brilliant" or "lucky" move. You are your own enemy, with shortsightedness and missteps the only things that can power your nemeses. That feeling of control accompanied by the intricate depth of the puzzle is what makes Gyromancer so much fun to play. I was mildly disappointed that the puzzles are timed so that finishing faster grants more experience. It adds tension to the puzzles, but it does mean that you can't languidly eye the puzzle board in a sleep-addled state. The game is better geared toward power players.

Too Many Questions

The fundamental problem I have with the Japanese-RPG feel of the game is that Gyromancer captures the feel of a Square Enix RPG, with lots of extraneous text messages in small print, captioned in small boxes, accompanied by multiple menu verifications and selections. In a typical PopCap game, I would press a single, large, friendly button that would reward me just for selecting it. In Gyromancer, instead of one happy button press, I have to make three different selections to enter into battle. If Square Enix wants to better engage casual gamers, they would do better to learn from their PopCap hirelings rather than conforming a PopCap-style puzzle to typical Square Enix RPG conventions.

Even if you aren't the world's biggest fan of Japanese-RPGs, the puzzle play and RPG elements in Gyromancer make it a great game for casual puzzle fans and hardcore gamers alike. Given that the whole basic game costs $15 (and another three stages can be purchased for $3 more), it's a great value for a ton of fun.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on November 24, 2009 6:10 AM.

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