Released: April 2009
Reviewed April 2009 by Jamie Davies
Following in the footsteps of Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords, it’s difficult to call Puzzle Quest: Galactrix a sequel. Instead it’s best to think of it as a spin off series, replacing themes of swords and sorcery for sci-fi and spaceships.
Aside from this cosmetic change with the setting (a more modern soundtrack and different, slightly darker art style) there’s also been a change to the main puzzle element. The aim is still to chain three or more shapes of the same colours in a line, but this time replacements don’t drop down from the top of the screen. In a much more complicated fashion the direction the player moves the last piece results in the new ones sliding into the circular playing field from different directions. This requires the player to think more tactically if they are to chain together multiple moves and gain enough colours to prime their ships weapons and initiate special attacks.
Confusing at first, old hands from the previous game will no doubt struggle with this new arrangement before it finally clicks. New players who are versed with Hexic may struggle with the fact that it doesn’t register diagonals. Whatever your level of experience with a previous Puzzle Quest game, it won’t help that the nastiest throwback from the original outing returns frustration caused by being underpowered at the start but which doesn’t stop the AI from slamming you. At least until you’re well versed with the mechanics and powerful enough to put up a proper fight.
Just like Challenge of the Warlords, the game doesn’t just focus on battles with the multitude of nasty aliens scattered around the galaxy. Like the mini-games to capture enemies or learn spells, here the player can do things like mine planets (reaching a set number of materials before they run out of moves) and hacking jump gates (matching a set number of shapes in a set order before the timer runs out). These go some way to offering variation.
While the puzzle element remains the key part of Galactrix’s gameplay, the increased element from the trading of mined materials to get cash for upgrades etc does add a newer and fresher feeling element. How well the sits with the player will be a matter for personal preference – for example, it may be a minor point but the non static background for the puzzle field may put off and disorientate some while they first get to grips with the mechanics. It adds very little and feels like a case of doing it just because they can an option to turn it off would help immensely but it’s just one of the little let downs in Galactrix’s presentation and implementation that take the shine off. Other examples range from other quite minor things (that the sci-fi setting just feels slightly colder and lacking some of the charm of the first) to the pretty serious (the chore of only being able to pass through jump gates a few times before they close up and have to be hacked all over again).
While this is all horses for courses, Galactrix is unarguably missing that “juno se qua” that carried the original and hooked you straight away. That’s not to say if you stick with Galctrix for any prolonged period of time, it won’t also hook you and youll find the same longevity and addictive streak that made the first such a compulsory purchase. But it does take that much longer and the flaws this time around make it all the more difficult to justify the high price (1600 Microsoft Points / $19.99 at the time of writing).