Review – Puzzle Quest: Galactrix

Game Review:  Puzzle Quest: Galactrix
Release: April 8, 2009
Genre: Puzzle / RPG
Developer: Infinite Interactive
Available Platforms: XBLA (Also on: DS, PC, PSN)
Players: 1-2
MSRP: 1600 MSP ($20)
ESRB Rating: E10+
Website: Puzzle Quest

When Infinite Interactive released the original Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords it was met with critical acclaim. The unique hybrid of puzzle game and roleplaying game was an absolute success. That was a little less than 2 years ago and Infinite Interactive has once again fused the two diverse genres together this time taking players into the far reaches of outer space.

The concept of Puzzle Quest: Galactrix is fairly simple. You choose a ship (which essentially replaces the human character in a typical RPG) that you can upgrade with new skills and parts. You take your ship and your crew (each member providing you with a unique ability that can be used outside of battle, such as the ability to hack leapgates, mine asteroids, and even haggle with shop traders) and fly around the galaxy trying to stop an unknown evil.

The puzzle element of the game is a fairly unique twist on the match-three concept. You are given a hexagonal grid and tasked with matching 3 same colored gems in a line. Infinite Interactive takes this one step further and adds gravity to the mix. Based on which direction you move one of the gems, will determine from which side of the playing board the pieces will fall, making you examine not only the pieces you are matching up, but the direction in which you make the match.

The core gameplay of Puzzle Quest is rock solid. With tons of upgrades for the ship available you can customize your strategy endlessly before heading into battle. The battles themselves are fun when all the pieces fall into place (pun is entirely intended). The gravity concept keeps things feeling fresh, and usually kept me feeling like I was in control of the outcome of the battle.

The included mini-games are also, for the most part, enjoyable. My particular favorite was easily mining, in which a set number of  gems are placed on to the playing field with various shapes on them, and you are tasked with removing a certain number of each.

The less successful, but still enjoyable haggling mini-game has a full board of gems that do no fill back in, and your goal is to remove as many gems as possible, the less you leave, the higher the discount you get on the item you are purchasing.

Finally, the often talked about hacking minigame. Throughout the Galactrix universe are leapgates. These provide you transport from one galaxy to another, but unfortunately for you they are all closed. In order to open them you are given a time limit and a set of gems you have to clear in a particular color order. This feature of the game is probably the most criticized for being frustrating and entirely luck based. During my many hours of gameplay I never once failed a leapgate, and found that with a very minimal amount of strategy (and absolutely no luck) I was able to clear the leapgates without issue.

There are, however, a lot of glaring issues with what should have been a great sequel. For starters the enemy A.I is atrocious. A quick example would be no matter what I did to prevent the enemy from regenerating it’s shield it would still attempt to regenerate it at the start of every single turn.

My second biggest gripe with this game is the overabundance of random encounters. As you uncover more and more of the galaxy you will find that some planets are green, and others are red. A red planet means it is hostile towards you, and traveling through it (often mandatory) has a high probability of engaging you in a fight. These fights can range anywhere from the mundanely easy to the frustratingly hard. While these battles are a nice break in the action every now and then, you will soon find yourself engaged in a string of battles that can last for 4 or more games in a row.

Finally, it is worth noting that despite my own successes with the leapgates they are in ample supply, and if you struggle with them in the demo, chances are you will struggle with them even more when the difficulty ramps up towards later portions of the game, so that is important to keep in mind when making your purchasing decision.

Final Verdict: While there are worse ways you could spend $20, there are also far better ways as well. My recommendation? Grab Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords and it’s expansion for a far more enjoyable experience.

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