The PSN Store has continuously been releasing quality products that help fill the void between official Playstation 3 releases, even offering such classics that demand attention by all gamers alike. Some may stand the test of time, but most must suffer the curse of mediocrity. Some strive to meet that desire for simple addictions, while others vie for innovation in a merging of genres, and if you’re looking for an in-depth story, gripping and significant RPG elements all packaged nicely together in a puzzle game, then Puzzle Quest: Galactrix is not quite right for you.
However, if you’re into Bejeweled and any of its clones, or are a fan of puzzle games in general, then PQ:G may offer a refreshing twist for series veterans, as well as those new to the puzzling phenomenon.
As you begin your journey into Galactrix, you’ll be greeted by a less-than-lackluster story. Four mega-corporations (an allegory for the America’s economy, perhaps?) have gradually overtaken the entire universe as superpowers through their invention of and command over the LeapGates, a warp system utilized by the galaxy’s inhabitants. As a pilot atop his or her class, the protagonist you control will bring you through an atypical science-fiction fare, just as predictable as it is forgettable. Yet, even with the plot’s shortcomings and mediocre RPG elements, PQ:G produces a puzzle scheme similar to its predecessors, but with some tweaked game modes.
The initial board has been changed into a hexagon, with each individual gem shaped in the same six-sided way. With more sides comes more moves as the hexagonal shape allows for six different options to swap gems. This opens the game up to much more in-depth thinking about what you’re going to do in 2, 3, or 4 turns, rather than the turn you’re currently on. However, besides this change, it generally plays like the previous installments, as your goal is to match 3 or more-of-a-kind in order to reach your goal. Four-in-a-row will no longer grant you an extra turn, as you need five now to achieve this feat. The most notable feature of the new board is the zero gravity function. No matter where you line your tiles up, they will fall in the direction they’re pointing, rather than falling straight down. This allows the you to create large number of matched tiles, producing multipliers for added affects.
The Playstation 3 controller feels right at home with the game’s control scheme. The digital pad is welcome, due to the extreme precision you’ll be moving with. There is no difference between the 360 and PS3 versions of Puzzle Quest: Galactrix, other than the option of free online play via the PSN. Out of all three versions I found that the PC was the easiest (using a mouse), but the console versions are able to hold their own just fine.
Within the story, you’ll be required to battle with space pirates, hack LeapGates, mining ore from asteroids, crafting spaceship parts, haggling with shop owners, and gathering rumors. Each aspect of the story holds different rules for the gem board, requiring you to match colors in a certain order or defeat an enemy using mine tiles, which have replaced the skull gems from Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords. The story will quickly introduce you to the six different modes of play, each accompanied by a certain crew member who becomes your avatar while navigating the puzzle.
The most common form of puzzle you’ll encounter, not surprisingly, are the battles with space pirates across the galaxy. Each ship, yours and the enemy’s, has a certain amount of equipment that utilizes gunnery, engineering, and science energies that correspond with the red, yellow, and green tiles respectively. In order to defeat your enemy, you must bring their hull energy down to zero, which can only be done after you’ve destroyed the enemy’s shields. To defend yourself and keep your shields at full strength, you can string together blue tiles that will fortify your shields or use equipment that the has created or found. In order to attack your opponent, you can use lasers equipped on your ship, or you will have to line up mine gems that are numbered 1-10, depending on the mine’s strength. The higher the numbers lined up, the more damage you will do to your enemy.
Another of the more common puzzles involves hacking the LeapGates in order to travel further through the universe, which is enormous, composed of over fifty galaxies that all have their own planets, asteroids, pirates, and other space…things. And by hacking I mean just another version of the general puzzle game. However, while “hacking” the gate, time slowly drains as you are required to line tiles together that match the corresponding color.
As you mine for ore and other valuables to sell for credits, you’ll encounter yet another game mode. In order to secure the cargo, you’ll need to match enough tiles to meet your cargo desires, before you run out of moves to make and a black-hole devours the asteroid. Similar to mining, crafting requires you gather a certain amount of material to achieve your goal. However, the normal board layout remains, as you string colors together to form the necessary tokens needed to craft your equipment. As you create tokens, you’ll need to line them up to acquire the equipment you need, regardless of what color helped make them.
The last two puzzle modes, haggling and gathering rumors, become available later in the game and aren’t exactly necessary to the game. Haggling requires you clear as many tiles as you can while the vanishing tiles are replaced by inactive black tokens. The percentage earned through the puzzle will grant discounts on shops that sell item and equipment, as well as new ships. While haggling may provide some value to a play-through, rumor gathering is just annoying and an artificial game lengthening mechanic. In order to “gather rumors,” or useless backstory you’ll forget as soon as its vomited out, you’ll need to survive a certain number of turns without combining special nuke tokens.
As a whole, Puzzle Quest: Galatrix is a very mediocre mix of the puzzle and RPG genres, a mix that heavily favors it’s puzzle roots. The campaign seemed to drag on, and I was only able to finish it through sheer willpower; the plot had no sense of allurement, and became quickly dispensable. As a puzzle game, however, PQ:G is addicting and thought powered fun. If the developers spent the same amount of time was on plot and it’s role-playing elements as they did on gameplay, PQ:G would be a masterful example of genre-blending. Online supports 2-4 players in a number of different puzzle modes, allowing for simple, yet addicting competitive online action. If packaged simply as a puzzle game with online multiplayer, Puzzle Quest: Galatrix would have been leagues better. But in order to be “innovative,” some risks need to be taken, but not all of them are destined to succeed.
[Version tested: PS3]
The graphics involved with the non-puzzle sections (i.e Plot) were very dull and generally undetailed, which doesn’t help its RPG cause.
Besides the very poor overworld screen, Puzzle Quest offers tremendously addictive puzzle modes that can be played with or against friends. The different game modes alter the puzzler enough to keep it fresh and entertaining. Yet, they are still all based on the same concept.
The songs during gameplay provide for a tense, yet fitting mood, while the sound effects are nothing short of perfect as you traverse your way through each mode of play.
Given that there are nearly 100 different galaxies to visit in the single player mode, you could spend a cool twenty hours on that alone, even if it becomes very repetitive. With the added multiplayer both over a local PS3 and the PSN, Galactrix will keep your brain busy for a long time to come.
Although a very solid puzzle game, Puzzle Quest: Galactrix struggles in its RPG offerings, falling short on plot and role-playing depth that most standard RPG’s offer. Yet, if you’re looking for a fresh twist on Bejeweled, Puzzle Quest, or any other of its incarnations, Galactrix should not be passed on by fans of the genre. But for $15, others may rightfully pass.