Puzzle Quest: Galactrix Review

By Tim Stevens - Posted Mar 11, 2009

In this X-Play Review, Adam takes a look at the new multiplatform game 'Puzzle Quest: Galactrix', a basic role playing game that uses puzzles instead of battles. Does this combination work? Find out in this review!

The Pros
  • More addictive puzzling
  • Minor gameplay tweak adds much more strategy
  • Plenty of missions to complete and areas to explore
The Cons
  • Gameplay is ultimately quite repetitive
  • Slow and clumsy navigation

Gems, gems, those wonderful gems. Where would gaming be without them? Puzzle games in particular would be a woefully barren genre if not for the things, and few have eradicated them more efficiently than Bejeweled and its many, many imitators. In 2007 Infinite Interactive took one of those clones, wrapped it in a lightweight RPG cloak, and created one of the most unexpectedly addicting games of the year in Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords. Now Puzzle Quest: Galactrix moves that same formula to the stars, creating a solid follow-up that no fan of the original will want to miss.

Up, Up and Away

Puzzle Quest: Galactrix ReviewWhere Warlords brought Bejeweled to Ogre Battle, Galactrix mixes it with something like X3 or Galactic Civilizations to create a space RPG/puzzler featuring plenty of exploration, research, and trading all hinging on that central gameplay mechanic of crushing gems. As always you can transpose any two neighbor gems to create rows of three or more that, once matched, shatter and disappear – only to be instantly succeeded by an endless supply of replacements waiting just off-screen.

The only real tweak to that simple concept here is the idea that you’re now in anti-gravity. In the past the replacement gems only came from the top when some were eliminated, but now they filter in from any side, coming in the direction that you made the match. So, swap one gem for one above it and replacements will flow in from the bottom; swap it for one below and the freshly polished successors come from the top, finally adding a bit of strategy to what was before something of a mindless clicker. 

That strategy is desperately needed because this simple puzzle aspect makes up every part of the gameplay. You’ll fly a ship around from planet to planet, constantly stumbling onto mission and adding members to your crew. Each member has a certain specialty like bartering for prices, mining for goods to trade, or blasting enemies into very small pieces, and each of those objectives all boil down to another session of gem-busting, thankfully with some small variations to spice things up a little.

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Puzzler Foundations

Puzzle Quest: Galactrix ReviewBy far the most entertaining type of puzzling here is the battle, where you face off against an AI opponent who you may have randomly bumped into in space or overtly went out and attacked. You both have renewable shields as well as some armor on your ship, taking turns matching gems and such, attacking each other by lining up and exploding space mines or by deploying various weapon systems that can be outfitted to your ship.

These systems require points from a red gauge filled by breaking red gems in battle. Breaking blue gems refills your shields, green and yellow your computers and engines (useful for powering non-offensive accessories), white gives you bonus experience for leveling up after the battle, and purple gives you points that can be spent to dodge random encounters in the future. This gives you plenty to think about when battling, and as your opponents gradually have stronger and stronger ships you’ll need to become a gem-smashing master. You’ll need some better hardware, too, and thankfully you can have up to three ships at your disposal, each kitted out with a number of weapons and accessories to make them better at offense, defense, or just plain avoidance.

Beyond battles the challenges you’ll most frequently be completing are hacking the many warp gates scattered throughout the stratosphere. These are timed challenges that require you shatter gems in a certain color sequence, starting out simple enough but very quickly becoming frustratingly challenging. Much of that frustration comes from the inherently random nature of the game; you never know what’s going to come from off-screen. Work through a board in the right way and you’ll increase your chances of success, but if the gems aren’t falling your way you’ll inevitably have to start again. Thankfully there’s no penalty for re-trying any battle, other than the amount of time you’ve lost, which can be substantial.

The Experience

Puzzle Quest: Galactrix ReviewWarlords was hardly a stunning game when it came to its presentation, and while Galactrix is a bit more polished, don’t go expecting big-budget graphics. The sprites and animations on the core puzzling experience look solid enough, and the characters, though not animated, have a suitably futuristic look. The rest of the game is played through a simplistic, 2-D, overhead map upon which you guide your ship by clicking. Graphically it works, but the inability to zoom in and out is unfortunate, since it’s on the large side (we are talking about an entire galaxy here) and scrolling around is too slow.

The game has a very dramatic score that sounds like something from an episode of the original Star Trek series, but instead of Kirk dodging fake boulders thrown by a guy in a lizard suit, here it’s just you clicking on little crystals. In other words, the music is perhaps a bit too dramatic, but it does the job.

A Whole Lot of Puzzling

Whether or not you’ll like this game really boils down to whether or not you like the decidedly Bejeweled-inspired core gameplay mode, because regardless of what you’re doing in this game you’re never more than a few clicks away from it. If you’re into it you’ll love this game, as the subtle changes made since Warlords really do make things more strategic, challenging, and ultimately enjoyable. Naturally, though, if you can’t stand the puzzling you’re not going to last long here, so check out the demo, break a few gems, and don’t be surprised if you get hooked.

Article Written By: Tim Stevens