|System: X360, PSP, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Infinite Interactive||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: D3 Publisher||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Q3 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Pending||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Joseph Catalanotto
March 11, 2008 - Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords was originally released for the Nintendo DS and certainly was one of the surprise hits of 2007. It effortlessly and brilliantly melded typical, addictive puzzle gameplay with some really awesome, deep role-playing elements to create a gaming experience that was both innovative and fun. And, realizing that they were on to something, the developers quickly ported the title to every major video game system on the market, aside from Sony's PS3. And now, Puzzle Quest is back for another round of the series, this time set in a futuristic, sci-fi world and coming out for the DS, PSP, and Xbox 360 simultaneously.
In last year's start-up title, Puzzle Quest allowed you to start out with a character customization screen, where you're given the option to select a unit type and customize the way that your character looks. And it's not just all about looking cool -- each different unit type enjoyed special advantages in battle, but at the same time each unit possesses a weakness in play type. The different units not only allowed you to customize your character to suit your own specific play style, but the system also added a lot of replay value to the title, as playing through the game with each different unit was a noticeably different experience. In Galactrix, however, you start with a predetermined character and in more typical RPG fashion, you'll customize different capabilities as you progress through the game.
Of course, this is the same Puzzle Quest we all played and loved last year -- what makes it any different? Well, aside from the rather deep sci-fi story, a clear departure from the fantasy world in which you played the original Puzzle Quest, the biggest difference is that this time around the game board is hexagonal, and the gems, rather than being squares, are also hexagons to create a very cool-looking playing field. The basic puzzle premise of Galactrix is much like that of the popular title Bejeweled, where you've got to line up three matching gems. However, the difficulty is that each turn you can only move a single gem a single space, and you'll be penalized if your move does not result in a line of three. An addition to Galactrix that comes about as a result of the hexagonal playing field is that in addition to moving gems up, down, left, and right, you can now also move them diagonally.
Control-wise, things are going to be pretty basic with Puzzle Quest regardless of which system you play it on -- and that's a good thing because the puzzles get pretty intense and you don't want to get hung up on a control problem. On the DS, you can simply tap a gem and slide it, while on the PSP and 360 you'll select a tile and then use an analog stick to direct where you'd like to move it. You can also unleash a number of different attacks (more on that momentarily) -- on the DS, it's done simply by tapping the icon for the particular attack you'd like to unleash, while on the other two systems it's done via face buttons.
Of course, the catch of the Puzzle Quest series, as we now have to call it, is that it's not just a puzzle game, because it's part RPG. These puzzles are actually battles, and in Galactrix the premise is that your ship is facing off against an enemy's. There are four different colored gems on the field (blue, green, red, and yellow), along with different attack gems. Also, in Galactrix rather than having a generic "attack" gem, there are numbers on them, so that when you line up three attack gems it deals damage to the enemy equaling the sum of the numbers of the lined-up attack gems. Getting rid of the colored gems serves to build up power for special attacks that your ship can execute (for example, an attack requires a certain amount of red, green, and yellow power). Blue gems allow you to put up a shield, which acts as a defense that your opponent (or you, if your foe is using it) has to hack through before dealing damage to your ship itself.
Like in last year's Puzzle Quest, Galactrix will feature a nicely fleshed-out multiplayer mode, where you and a friend can duke it out. These battles won't really differ much from the game itself, but of course it's always pretty cool to be able to play against a human opponent rather than a computer. It's just another aspect that is making Puzzle Quest: Galactrix another must-have puzzle title. Keep an eye out for its release on all three systems in Fall of 2008.
CCC Freelance Writer