Puzzle Quest: Galactrix
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2009-06-20 Xbox 360 Puzzle E (Everyone) D3 Publisher

I am a huge fan of Puzzle Quest since I first played it on the DS. It's no surprise that I also have downloaded it from XBL. But when I first played the flash demo of Galactrix, I didn't really like it, and that was mostly because I didn't understand how the puzzle board now worked.

Everyone can play a simple match-three puzzle, therefore everyone can technically play Puzzle Quest. Galactrix had me frustrated because the demo didn't explain what I needed to know. Fortunately, with the downloading of the full game, the frustration and doubts slowly went away by playing through the initial levels, giving place to an even more in-depth and addictive experience than the original Puzzle Quest offered.

There are some differences in Galactrix. First, the whole theme of the game takes place in a sci-fi environment. You are the captain of a spaceship, which you fly around the universe, doing missions, mining, trading, smuggling contraband and so on. Your ship can be upgraded or replaced by a new one, and your power-ups are no longer spells, but laser canons, shields and the like.

The major difference is definitely the puzzle mechanics. It's still a match-three, but the gems don't just fall down from the top of the puzzle field. The grid is now a hexagon (as are the gems) and depending on how you move a gem, the puzzle field will move in the direction the selected gem was swapped to. Sounds complicated in theory, but it's easy to see how it works in practice. This obviously changes the attack strategy a lot and makes it a lot more difficult to get those 5-gem combos and the extra turn that comes with them.

Battling becomes gradually more difficult, since the game adjusts to your current level. Red, green and yellow gems are your "mana", here called energy, and each pertaining to a category: red for weapon, green for computer, yellow for engine. Blue gems now become the ship's shield. White is intel, your experience. Purple is Psi energy power, which is unlocked later in the game.

Members of your crew have different abilities, such as hacking gates or mining. This galaxy is huge and the quickest way to get around it is by using the Leap Gates, which must be hacked before they are active. Think of them as Stargates but without having to dial a DHD every time you want to go somewhere. The hacking game has the same mechanics, but you don't battle anyone. ED24 (your resident robotic crew member) hacks the gates while you play, by creating the combos of the color indicated on screen. Create all the combos within the time limit to open the gate.

Lydia does the mining, which is also based on the same puzzle mechanics but with a twist. A pretty interesting twist. The gems are replaced with materials and blank spots (which can't be moved unless if swapped with one of the materials), and you must keep matching the pieces until you either mine the maximum amount of each material, or if you run out of moves (black hole). These are probably the toughest puzzles in the game, or at least I found that mining an asteroid fully wasn't an easy task.

With mining comes crafting, again done by the puzzle board. You need to acquire the plans for whatever item before you can actually craft it, as well as the required materials. The only downside of crafting is that if you fail to make the item, the materials you used in the attempt will be gone.

Unlocking rumors is now also done by the puzzle board, which I think it's a bit unecessary. There is a nuke gem in the board and you must survive a certain number of turns against the person you are trying to get information from without making a combo with the nuke gem. It's probably the most annoying of all puzzle variations, but it still has its charm in the challenges it poses.

A new feature is the haggling process. By having Petz in your crew you can haggle with merchants to sell your merchandise for higher prices or buy at a discount. The more gems you clear on the board, the better your discount when buying or the better the selling price of your merchandise.

So for the most part, and like before, you go from planet to planet, system to system, doing missions, unlocking bits of the main story and eventually finding and fighting the evil final boss. But in between, expect to be completely lost in quests, fighting off pirates because somehow you are transporting contraband, while attempting to raise your standing with a particular faction so they don't keep attacking you whenever you approach their system to try and get by (I actually got stuck in a loop like that when I was too low level to fight the ship that was chasing me, after having killed a ton of the lower-level ones... oopsie!).

If you thought Puzzle Quest was already a time-consuming game, wait until you try Galactrix.

Special thanks to D3 Publisher for providing a copy of this title.