BACK IN THE MISTS OF 2007 a small, largely unheralded title came out that offered the unique combination of gem-matching puzzle à la Bejeweled and classic RPG à la… a classic RPG. Guess what? These two unlikely bedfellows rocked the Casbah. I am, of course, speaking of Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords. Hoping that lightning will strike twice, developer Infinite Interactive hasreleased Puzzle Quest: Galactrix, swapping the fantasy realm for deep-space sci-fi.
Taking a look at the gameplay, the most obvious change is that the gems or tiles are no longer round but hexagonal. This gives you the ability now to match gems diagonally, as well as vertically and horizontally. Matching three or more gems allows you to recharge various special in-game abilities and activate ‘Space Mines’, your main means of attack.
To go along with the newly shaped gems is a shiny new round puzzle board. The board now allows gems to drop in or out from any side, thanks to the ‘gravity’ feature. More specifi cally, if the match takes place in orbit around a planetoid, the tiles will always fall downward (thanks, Newton) but if you’re fl ying around the cosmos, gems will come from whatever direction you made your previous move. I presume this is in an attempt to recreate the visceral thrill of weightlessness.
ll these innovations must have sounded great on paper; problem is, in practice they’re pants. It’s just way too easy to create a chain of destruction with a single move of a gem. Strategy takes a back seat to chance, as spending 20 minutes trying to figure out all possible outcomes is not my idea of a good time.
Now an honest admission: during my brief tenure with Galactrix I actually found myself sneaking cheeky plays of the original Puzzle Quest. Why? Because so much that I loved about the original is missing from its successor. Too much of Galactrix feels either like a chore, blind luck, or a combination of the two. I know that’s not what fans of the original want to hear, but I just calls them like they is.